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Thallium isotopic evidence for ferromanganese sediments in the mantle source of Hawaiian basalts


Ocean island basalts are generally thought to be the surface expression of mantle plumes, but the nature of the components in the source regions of such mantle plumes is a subject of long-standing debate. The lavas erupted at Hawaii have attracted particular attention, as it has been proposed that coupled 186Os and 187Os anomalies reflect interaction with the Earth's metallic core1,2. It has recently been suggested, however, that such variations could also result from addition of oceanic ferromanganese sediments to the mantle source of these lavas3,4,5. Here we show that Hawaiian picrites with osmium isotope anomalies also exhibit pronounced thallium isotope variations, which are coupled with caesium/thallium ratios that extend to values much lower than commonly observed for mantle-derived rocks. This correlation cannot be created by admixing of core material, and is best explained by the addition of ferromanganese sediments into the Hawaii mantle source region. However, the lack of correlation between thallium and osmium isotopes and the high thallium/osmium ratios of ferromanganese sediments preclude a sedimentary origin for the osmium isotope anomalies, and leaves core–mantle interaction as a viable explanation for the osmium isotope variations of the Hawaiian picrites.

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Figure 1: Thallium isotope compositions of the Hawaiian picrites plotted versus Cs/Tl ratios.
Figure 2: Thallium isotope compositions of the Hawaiian picrites plotted versus 206 Pb/ 204 Pb and 186 Os/ 188 Os isotope ratios.

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We thank T. Elliott, M. Humayun and R.J. Walker for reviews; A. Brandon for comments; C. Devey, D. Graham, K. Haase, C. Hémond, P. Stoffers and the POS 221 and SO157 scientific parties for providing samples; M. Meier, U. Menet, D. Niederer, B. Rütsche, C. Stirling, A. Süsli, S. Woodland, H. Williams and the rest of the IGMR group at the ETH for keeping the mass spectrometers and clean laboratories functioning at all times. This study was funded by the ETH Zurich, the Schweizerische Nationalfonds and the Danish Research Agency. This is a publication of the ARC National Key Centre for Geochemical Evolution and Metallogeny of Continents (GEMOC).

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Correspondence to Sune G. Nielsen.

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Nielsen, S., Rehkämper, M., Norman, M. et al. Thallium isotopic evidence for ferromanganese sediments in the mantle source of Hawaiian basalts. Nature 439, 314–317 (2006).

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