Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Chondritic xenon in the Earth’s mantle

Abstract

Noble gas isotopes are powerful tracers of the origins of planetary volatiles, and the accretion and evolution of the Earth. The compositions of magmatic gases provide insights into the evolution of the Earth’s mantle and atmosphere1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Despite recent analytical progress in the study of planetary materials8,9 and mantle-derived gases2,3,4,5,6,7, the possible dual origin1,10 of the planetary gases in the mantle and the atmosphere remains unconstrained. Evidence relating to the relationship between the volatiles within our planet and the potential cosmochemical end-members is scarce5. Here we show, using high-precision analysis of magmatic gas from the Eifel volcanic area (in Germany), that the light xenon isotopes identify a chondritic primordial component that differs from the precursor of atmospheric xenon. This is consistent with an asteroidal origin for the volatiles in the Earth’s mantle, and indicates that the volatiles in the atmosphere and mantle originated from distinct cosmochemical sources. Furthermore, our data are consistent with the origin of Eifel magmatism being a deep mantle plume. The corresponding mantle source has been isolated from the convective mantle since about 4.45 billion years ago, in agreement with models that predict the early isolation of mantle domains11. Xenon isotope systematics support a clear distinction between mid-ocean-ridge and continental or oceanic plume sources6, with chemical heterogeneities dating back to the Earth’s accretion1,7. The deep reservoir now sampled by the Eifel gas had a lower volatile/refractory (iodine/plutonium) composition than the shallower mantle sampled by mid-ocean-ridge volcanism, highlighting the increasing contribution of volatile-rich material during the first tens of millions of years of terrestrial accretion.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Xe isotope composition of the Victoriaquelle gas.
Figure 2: Light Xe isotope correlations.
Figure 3: Differences in the Xe isotopic compositions of the MORB and mantle plume reservoirs.

References

  1. 1

    Marty, B. Neon and xenon isotopes in MORB: implications for the Earth–atmosphere evolution. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 94, 45–56 (1989)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Ballentine, C. J., Schoell, M., Coleman, D. & Cain, B. A. 300-Myr-old magmatic CO2 in natural gas reservoirs of the west Texas Permian basin. Nature 409, 327–331 (2001)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Ballentine, C. J., Marty, B., Sherwood Lollar, B. & Cassidy, M. Neon isotopes constrain convection and volatile origin in the Earth’s mantle. Nature 433, 33–38 (2005)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Holland, G. & Ballentine, C. J. Seawater subduction controls the heavy noble gases composition of the mantle. Nature 441, 186–191 (2006)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Holland, G., Cassidy, M. & Ballentine, C. J. Meteorite Kr in the Earth’s mantle suggests a late accretionary source for the atmosphere. Science 326, 1522–1525 (2009)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Parai, R. & Mukhopadhyay, S. The evolution of MORB and plume mantle volatile budgets: constraints from fission Xe isotopes in Southwest Indian Ridge basalts. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 16, 719–735 (2015)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Mukhopadhyay, S. Early differentiation and volatile accretion recorded in deep-mantle neon and xenon. Nature 486, 101–104 (2012)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Meshik, A., Hohenberg, C., Pravdivtsev, O. & Burnett, D. Heavy noble gases in solar wind delivered by Genesis mission. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 127, 326–347 (2014)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Ott, U. Planetary and pre-solar noble gases in meteorites. Chem. Erde 74, 519–544 (2014)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Harper, C. L. Jr & Jacobsen, S. B. Noble gases and Earth’s accretion. Science 273, 1814–1818 (1996)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Boyet, M. & Carlson, R. W. 142Nd evidence for early (>4.53 Ga) global differentiation of the silicate Earth. Science 309, 576–581 (2005)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Porcelli, D. & Ballentine, C. J. Models for distribution of terrestrial noble gases and evolution of the atmosphere. Rev. Mineral. Geochem. 47, 411–480 (2002)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Caffee, M. W. et al. Primordial noble gases from Earth’s mantle: identification of a primitive volatile component. Science 285, 2115–2118 (1999)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Hoernle, K., Zhang, Y. S. & Graham, D. Seismic and geochemical evidence for large-scale mantle upwelling beneath the eastern Atlantic and western and central Europe. Nature 374, 34–39 (1995)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Wedepohl, K. H. & Baumann, A. Central European Cenozoic plume volcanism with OIB characteristics and indications of a lower mantle source. Contrib. Mineral. Petrol. 136, 225–239 (1999)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Goes, S., Spakman, W. & Bijwaard, H. A lower mantle source for central European volcanism. Science 286, 1928–1931 (1999)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Buikin, A. et al. Noble gas isotopes suggest deep mantle plume source of late Cenozoic mafic alkaline volcanism in Europe. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 230, 143–162 (2005)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Bräuer, K., Kämpf, H., Niedermann, S. & Strauch, G. Indications for the existence of different magmatic reservoirs beneath the Eifel area (Germany): a multi-isotope (C, N, He, Ne, Ar) approach. Chem. Geol. 356, 193–208 (2013)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Pepin, R. O. & Porcelli, D. Xenon isotope systematic, giant impacts, and mantle degassing on the Earth. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 250, 470–485 (2006)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Takaoka, N. An interpretation of general anomalies of xenon and the isotopic composition of primitive xenon. J. Mass Spectrosc. Soc. Japan 20, 287–302 (1972)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Hudson, G. B., Kennedy, B. M., Podosek, F. A. & Hohenberg, C. M. The early Solar System abundance of 244Pu as inferred from the St. Severin chondrite. Proc. Lunar Planet. Sci. Conf. 19, 547–557 (1989)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Avice, G. & Marty, B. The iodine–plutonium–xenon age of the Moon–Earth system revisited. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 372, 20130260 (2014)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Touboul, M., Puchtel, I. S. & Walker, R. J. 128W evidence for long-term preservation of early mantle differentiation products. Science 335, 1065–1069 (2012)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Graham, D. W. Noble gas isotope geochemistry of mid-ocean ridge and ocean island basalts: characterization of mantle source reservoirs. Rev. Mineral. Geochem. 47, 247–317 (2002)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Budweg, M., Bock, G. & Weber, M. The Eifel plume—imaged with converted seismic waves. Geophys. J. Int. 166, 579–589 (2006)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Ritter, J. R. R. in Mantle Plumes: A Multidisciplinary Approach (eds Ritter, J. R. R. & Christensen, U. R. ) 379–404 (Springer-Verlag, 2007)

  27. 27

    Honda, M. et al. Possible solar noble-gas component in Hawaiian basalts. Nature 349, 149–151 (1991)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Marty, B. The origins and concentrations of water, carbon, nitrogen and noble gases on Earth. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 313–314, 56–66 (2012)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Schönbächler, M., Carlson, R. W., Horan, M. F., Mock, T. D. & Hauri, E. H. Heterogeneous accretion and the moderately volatile element budget of Earth. Science 328, 884–887 (2010)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Morbidelli, A. et al. Source regions and timescales for the delivery of water to the Earth. Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 35, 1309–1320 (2000)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Ozima, M. & Podosek, F. A. Noble Gas Geochemistry 2nd edn, 22 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002)

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work is dedicated to Peter G. Burnard, who passed away after the submission of the manuscript. This study was supported by the Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, by the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013 grant agreement no. 267255) and by the Deep Carbon Observatory. D. L. Hamilton helped in setting up the new mass spectrometry system at CRPG. This is CRPG contribution #2413.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

A.C., P.G.B. and B.M. designed the study. A.C. collected the samples, performed the experiments and analysed the data. G.A. processed the data and wrote the section on the processing procedure in Methods. A.C., P.G.B., G.A. and B.M. wrote the paper. E.F. collected the samples. All authors contributed to the interpretation and discussion of the data and provided comments on and input to the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Antonio Caracausi.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

Data obtained in this study are available at the EarthChem library (http://dx.doi.org/10.1594/IEDA/100582).

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Residuals of the different mixing possibilities.

Calculations were performed for the light isotopes (124–128Xe) using the isotopic compositions of air (typically about 87%) and Q-Xe, AVCC-Xe or SW-Xe (typically about 13%). The best fit is achieved by taking either AVCC-Xe or Q-Xe as the primordial component. SW-Xe does not produce an adequate fit and therefore is not a suitable candidate for this component (as also shown in Fig. 1).

Extended Data Figure 2 Deconvolution of the proportion of the primordial component (Q-Xe) relative to the atmosphere for 124Xe/130Xe.

The red line represents the result of the normal fit. The solid green line depicts the mean value and the dashed green lines depict the error range of ±1σ.

Extended Data Figure 3 Range of χ2 values obtained from the simulations.

Approximately 75% of the values are less than 3.

Extended Data Figure 4 Fraction of initial component required to fit the isotopic composition of the Eifel gas.

The solid green line depicts the mean value and the dashed green lines depict the error range of ±1σ.

Extended Data Figure 5 Fraction of Pu-Xe required to fit the isotopic composition of the Eifel gas.

Some very low values (those less than 10−5) were excluded from the calculations, resulting in a mean of 2.26% (green line) and a standard deviation of 0.28% (1σ).

Extended Data Figure 6 Isotopic composition of heavy isotopes (131–134Xe).

The data are normalized to 136Xe of the Eifel gas after correction for atmospheric and primitive chondritic contributions, and compared to the fission spectrum of 131–136Xe produced by spontaneous fission of 238U and 244Pu. Excesses in heavy isotopes are compatible with spontaneous fission of 244Pu.

Extended Data Figure 7 Closure ages calculated from the 129XeI/136XePu ratios.

See Methods for details of the computation method. A younger closure age for the upper mantle is achieved only if the I/Pu ratio is at least 3.5 times higher than the lower-mantle source.

Extended Data Table 1 Xenon isotopic ratios measured in aliquots of the Eifel gas

PowerPoint slides

Source data

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Caracausi, A., Avice, G., Burnard, P. et al. Chondritic xenon in the Earth’s mantle. Nature 533, 82–85 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature17434

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links