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Evidence for the survival of the oldest terrestrial mantle reservoir

Abstract

Helium is a powerful tracer of primitive material in Earth’s mantle. Extremely high 3He/4He ratios in some ocean-island basalts suggest the presence of relatively undegassed and undifferentiated material preserved in Earth’s mantle. However, terrestrial lavas with high 3He/4He ratios have never been observed to host the primitive lead-isotopic compositions that are required for an early (roughly 4.5 Gyr ago) formation age1,2. Here we show that Cenozoic-era Baffin Island and West Greenland lavas, previously found to host the highest terrestrial-mantle 3He/4He ratios3,4,5, exhibit primitive lead-isotope ratios that are consistent with an ancient mantle source age of 4.55–4.45 Gyr. The Baffin Island and West Greenland lavas also exhibit 143Nd/144Nd ratios similar to values recently proposed for an early-formed (roughly 4.5 Gyr ago) terrestrial mantle reservoir6,7. The combined helium-, lead- and Nd-isotopic compositions in Baffin Island and West Greenland lavas therefore suggest that their source is the most ancient accessible reservoir in the Earth’s mantle, and it may be parental to all mantle reservoirs that give rise to modern volcanism.

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Figure 1: Nd- and Pb-isotopic composition of Baffin Island lavas from Padloping Island.
Figure 2: Primitive mantle normalized trace-element-source budget of the highest- 3 He/ 4 He Baffin Island mantle.

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Acknowledgements

M.G.J. acknowledges his Carnegie postdoctoral fellowship. We also thank J. P. Brandenburg, J. Day, D. Graham, S. Hart, E. Hauri, C. Herzberg, L. Larsen, N. Shimizu, S. Shirey and P. Van Keken for discussions. We thank J. Curtice for assistance in the laboratory. Reviews from Al Hofmann improved the manuscript. The Ocean Sciences Section of the National Science Foundation partially supported the helium measurements at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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M.G.J. and R.W.C. conceived the model, and M.G.J. wrote the paper. P.D.K and M.D.K. took the measurements. D.F. provided conceptual advice and insights regarding the field area and sample collection. J.B. aided in sample preparation and data interpretation. All authors contributed intellectually to the paper.

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Correspondence to Matthew G. Jackson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jackson, M., Carlson, R., Kurz, M. et al. Evidence for the survival of the oldest terrestrial mantle reservoir. Nature 466, 853–856 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09287

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