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Key new pieces of the HIMU puzzle from olivines and diamond inclusions


Mantle melting, which leads to the formation of oceanic and continental crust, together with crust recycling through plate tectonics, are the primary processes that drive the chemical differentiation of the silicate Earth. The present-day mantle, as sampled by oceanic basalts, shows large chemical and isotopic variability bounded by a few end-member compositions1. Among these, the HIMU end-member (having a high U/Pb ratio, μ) has been generally considered to represent subducted/recycled basaltic oceanic crust2,3,4,5. However, this concept has been challenged by recent studies of the mantle source of HIMU magmas. For example, analyses of olivine phenocrysts in HIMU lavas indicate derivation from the partial melting of peridotite, rather than from the pyroxenitic remnants of recycled oceanic basalt6. Here we report data that elucidate the source of these lavas: high-precision trace-element analyses of olivine phenocrysts point to peridotite that has been metasomatized by carbonatite fluids. Moreover, similarities in the trace-element patterns of carbonatitic melt inclusions in diamonds7 and HIMU lavas indicate that the metasomatism occurred in the subcontinental lithospheric mantle, fused to the base of the continental crust and isolated from mantle convection. Taking into account evidence from sulfur isotope data8 for Archean to early Proterozoic surface material in the deep HIMU mantle source, a multi-stage evolution is revealed for the HIMU end-member, spanning more than half of Earth’s history. Before entrainment in the convecting mantle, storage in a boundary layer, upwelling as a mantle plume and partial melting to become ocean island basalt, the HIMU source formed as Archean–early Proterozoic subduction-related carbonatite-metasomatized subcontinental lithospheric mantle.

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Figure 1: Compositions of olivine phenocrysts from HIMU (Mangaia, Tubuai) and intermediate HIMU–EM1 (Karthala) lavas.
Figure 2: Normalized trace-element patterns comparing HIMU–EM1 lavas (Mangaia, Tubuai and Karthala), Group I kimberlites, high-Mg carbonatitic fluids from diamond inclusions and the calculated melt of SCLM source compositions.
Figure 3: Mg# versus major element abundances, trace-element ratios, and isotope ratios in cratonic xenoliths.
Figure 4: Conceptual model for the evolution of the HIMU mantle source.


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We thank S. Lambart, D. G. Pearson, S. Aulbach and D. Walker for discussions, A. W. Hofmann for discussions and an informal review, J. Gross and B. A. Goldoff for help with the EPMA analyses, and K. Lehnert and A. Johansson for help with accessing the xenolith data in EarthChem’s PetDB database. This work was supported by an LDEO Postdoctoral Fellowship for Y.W., NSF grant EAR13-48045 to Y.W., C.C. and S.L.G., and the Storke Endowment of the Columbia University Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. This is Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory contribution number 8046.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Y.W., C.C. and S.L.G. conceived the project, developed the model and wrote the paper. Y.W. preformed the EPMA analyses. T.H. provided the olivine samples for the study and contributed to the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yaakov Weiss, Cornelia Class, Steven L. Goldstein or Takeshi Hanyu.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

The new data (Supplementary Data 1, as well as the compiled xenolith data set used here (Supplementary Data 2, have been submitted to EarthChem (

Reviewer Information Nature thanks E. Hauri and W. White for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Sr–Nd–Pb isotopes of Mangaia, Tubuai and Karthala samples in this study, African Group I kimberlites and continental carbonatites.

a, 143Nd/144Nd versus 87Sr/86Sr. b, 208Pb/204Pb versus 206Pb/204Pb. The data illustrate the compositional range between the global mantle endmembers (DMM, depleted MORB mantle; EM1; EM2 and HIMU); mixing on this diagram is linear. Data sources: Mangaia and Tubuai (ref. 5), Karthala (ref. 11), kimberlites (refs 22, 36, 37) and continental carbonatites (refs 38, 39, 40). The mantle end-member components are from ref. 1; the grey and black data points are from Hawaii, Iceland, St Helena, Cook–Austral Islands, Samoa, Society, Marquesas, Pitcairn and Tristan (from the compilation of ref. 10).

Extended Data Figure 2 Pressure–temperature corrections to the Ni contents of Mangaia, Tubuai and Karthala olivine phenocrysts.

a, 300 p.p.m. Ni. b, 500 p.p.m. Ni. Following ref. 13, we calculated Ni in near-surface olivine in equilibrium with Mangaia and Karthala primary magmas at different segregation pressures (ΔT in the model). On the basis of the age of the oceanic crust of Mangaia and Tubuai (80–120 Ma) and Karthala (approximately 140 Ma), which are equivalent to estimated lithosphere thicknesses of around 75–100 km (ref. 41), we assume that the difference between the pressures (P) of segregation of these lavas compared to MORBs (around 1 GPa; ref. 42) is 1.25–2.00 GPa, equivalent to ΔT = 70–110 °C. This difference in the segregation pressures corresponds to 300–500 p.p.m. Ni (the arrow pointing to lower Ni indicates the effect of increasing pressure and/or temperature (‘P/T effect’) on Ni-in-olivine). When corrected, Mangaia, Tubuai and Karthala data agree with the modelled olivine liquid line of descent for Mangaia primary magmas6 (that is, the green dashed line; L, liquid; Ol, olivine; Cpx, clinopyroxene; Plag, plagioclase), and lie on an extension of the crystallization trend of MORB phenocryst compositions. These relationships support the connection between the olivine phenocryst compositions and a peridotite source lithology. For the calculations, we used PRIMELT2 (ref. 43) to determine the parental magma compositions, the Fo content of the olivine in equilibrium with this liquid and the liquidus temperature at 1 bar; and Ni = 0.37 wt% for the residual peridotite olivine, which is the mean global value for olivines from spinel and garnet peridotites44. The yellow ellipses encompass >95% of the data points for Karthala olivine (see Supplementary Data 1).

Extended Data Figure 3 Ca and Al in olivine from garnet and spinel peridotite xenoliths as a function of temperature.

Top, Al concentration. Middle, Ca concentration. Bottom, Ca/Al ratio. Xenolith data and temperatures are from ref. 15. The data show that while partitioning of both Ca and Al into olivine increase with temperature, the Ca/Al ratios in olivine initially decrease and become nearly constant with increasing temperature.

Extended Data Figure 4 Ca and Al partitioning with temperature in olivines in basalts.

a, Ratio of Ca and Al partition coefficients (D). b, Ca/Al ratios in olivine phenocrysts. The experimentally determined D values for Ca- and Al-in-olivine, in equilibrium with a peridotite-derived melt, are from ref. 17; they were determined for increasing temperature and pressure. Data for Ca and Al in olivine phenocrysts from MORB (NW Pacific, Hess Deep, Gulf of California, Siqueiros Transform) and large igneous provinces (LIPs; SE Greenland, Baffin Island, Gorgona, Madagascar) are from ref. 16; temperatures were determined on the basis of the Al-in-olivine thermometer16. Both the experimental results and the measured Ca and Al contents in crystallizing olivines show decreasing Ca/Al ratios with increasing temperature. On the basis of these data and the observations in Extended Data Fig. 3, Ca/Al ratios in olivine phenocrysts from magmatic systems can be expected to decrease with increasing temperature. In contrast, our data from HIMU hot plumes show very high Ca/Al ratios in olivine phenocrysts compared with low Ca/Al ratios in phenocrysts from cooler MORB lavas (or other hot OIBs) (see Fig. 1). Temperature differences therefore cannot explain the Ca/Al variations in olivine from OIB and MORB lavas. We thus conclude that the high Ca/Al ratios of HIMU olivine phenocrysts and lavas instead reflect the compositions of the HIMU magma source.

Extended Data Figure 5 187Os/188Os evolution of mixtures of lherzolite and metasomatized harzburgite.

The metasomatic event in the SCLM took place in the Archean or early Proterozoic and involved materials that had been at the Earth’s surface (on the basis of the observation that HIMU lavas contain sulfur that shows mass-independent fractionation)8. We use 2.7 Ga for this example. Our study determined that the metasomatizing agent is subduction-derived carbonatitic fluids/melts. The primitive upper mantle (PUM) evolution line is based on present-day values of 187Os/188Os = 0.129 and 187Re/188Os = 0.43 (ref. 26); at 2.7 Ga the 187Os/188Os of PUM was 0.109. The figure shows evolution lines from the PUM at 2.7 Ga for mixtures of lherzolite and metasomatized harzburgite ranging from 50% to 100% lherzolite. The Re/Os ratios of the normal (lherzolite) and metasomatized (harzburgitic) SCLM are from the averages of 143 cratonic lherzolite xenoliths (187Re/188Os = 0.4) and 31 harzburgite xenoliths (187Re/188Os = 2.44), respectively, all with Mg# between 0.910 and 0.935 from the mantle xenolith database in PetDB (see Supplementary Data 2). For a metasomatic event at 2.7 Ga, only 18%–30% metasomatized harzburgite is required to reproduce the 187Os/188Os ratios of HIMU lavas.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains the Supplementary Text and Data for: (1) Trace and element Melting Model and (2) Os Evolution Model of Old Metasomatized SCLM. Additional references are also included. (PDF 309 kb)

Supplementary Data 1

This file contains the EPMA analyses of olivine, which is the Source Data for the RED, PINK and YELLOW data points in Figure 1. (XLSX 161 kb)

Supplementary Data 2

This file shows the Cratonic Xenoliths, which is the Source Data for all the data points in Figure 3. (XLSX 632 kb)

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Weiss, Y., Class, C., Goldstein, S. et al. Key new pieces of the HIMU puzzle from olivines and diamond inclusions. Nature 537, 666–670 (2016).

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