Letter | Published:

Hadean silicate differentiation preserved by anomalous 142Nd/144Nd ratios in the Réunion hotspot source

Nature volume 555, pages 8993 (01 March 2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

Active volcanic hotspots can tap into domains in Earth’s deep interior that were formed more than two billion years ago1,2. High-precision data on variability in tungsten isotopes have shown that some of these domains resulted from differentiation events that occurred within the first fifty million years of Earth history3,4. However, it has not proved easy to resolve analogous variability in neodymium isotope compositions that would track regions of Earth’s interior whose composition was established by events occurring within roughly the first five hundred million years of Earth history5,6. Here we report 142Nd/144Nd ratios for Réunion Island igneous rocks, some of which are resolvably either higher or lower than the ratios in modern upper-mantle domains. We also find that Réunion 142Nd/144Nd ratios correlate with helium-isotope ratios (3He/4He), suggesting parallel behaviour of these isotopic systems during very early silicate differentiation, perhaps as early as 4.39 billion years ago. The range of 142Nd/144Nd ratios in Réunion basalts is inconsistent with a single-stage differentiation process, and instead requires mixing of a conjugate melt and residue formed in at least one melting event during the Hadean eon, 4.56 billion to 4 billion years ago. Efficient post-Hadean mixing nearly erased the ancient, anomalous 142Nd/144Nd signatures, and produced the relatively homogeneous 143Nd/144Nd composition that is characteristic of Réunion basalts. Our results show that Réunion magmas tap into a particularly ancient, primitive source compared with other volcanic hotspots7,8,9,10, offering insight into the formation and preservation of ancient heterogeneities in Earth’s interior.

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Acknowledgements

B.J.P. is grateful for conversations with fellow postdocs A. Mundl and J. Reimink. Technical assistance with Nd isotope measurements was provided by T. Mock, and data-reduction routines were modified from an original version by M. Garçon. Funding for fieldwork for this study was provided by the National Geographic Society (NGS 8330-07), the Geological Society of America (GSA 10539-14), and a personal donation from R. Rex. Support for laboratory work was provided by the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC 20015, USA

    • Bradley J. Peters
    • , Richard W. Carlson
    •  & Mary F. Horan
  2. Geosciences Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA

    • James M. D. Day

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Contributions

B.J.P. performed chemical separations and isotope analyses and wrote the manuscript. R.W.C. and B.J.P. interpreted the data and developed the modelling. J.M.D.D. and B.J.P. collected rock samples. M.F.H. developed the chemical separation method and contributed to data analysis. All authors reviewed, edited and approved the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bradley J. Peters.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks B. Bourdon and B. Hanan for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Supplementary information

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    Supplementary Tables

    This file contains Supplementary Tables 1 and 2. Supplementary Table 1 contains data per-sample Nd isotope results. Supplementary Table 2 contains per-run Nd isotope results.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature25754

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