The widely accepted paradigm of Earth's geochemical evolution states that the successive extraction of melts from the mantle over the past 4.5 billion years formed the continental crust, and produced at least one complementary melt-depleted reservoir that is now recognized as the upper-mantle source of mid-ocean-ridge basalts1. However, geochemical modelling and the occurrence of high 3He/4He (that is, primordial) signatures in some volcanic rocks suggest that volumes of relatively undifferentiated mantle may reside in deeper, isolated regions2. Some basalts from large igneous provinces may provide temporally restricted glimpses of the most primitive parts of the mantle3,4, but key questions regarding the longevity of such sources on planetary timescales—and whether any survive today—remain unresolved. Kimberlites, small-volume volcanic rocks that are the source of most diamonds, offer rare insights into aspects of the composition of the Earth’s deep mantle. The radiogenic isotope ratios of kimberlites of different ages enable us to map the evolution of this domain through time. Here we show that globally distributed kimberlites originate from a single homogeneous reservoir with an isotopic composition that is indicative of a uniform and pristine mantle source, which evolved in isolation over at least 2.5 billion years of Earth history—to our knowledge, the only such reservoir that has been identified to date. Around 200 million years ago, extensive volumes of the same source were perturbed, probably as a result of contamination by exogenic material. The distribution of affected kimberlites suggests that this event may be related to subduction along the margin of the Pangaea supercontinent. These results reveal a long-lived and globally extensive mantle reservoir that underwent subsequent disruption, possibly heralding a marked change to large-scale mantle-mixing regimes. These processes may explain why uncontaminated primordial mantle is so difficult to identify in recent mantle-derived melts.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Nature Communications Open Access 09 December 2023
Scientific Reports Open Access 06 June 2023
Light oxygen isotopes in mantle-derived magmas reflect assimilation of sub-continental lithospheric mantle material
Nature Communications Open Access 02 November 2021
Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals
Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription
$29.99 / 30 days
cancel any time
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
$199.00 per year
only $3.90 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
All data generated or analysed during the course of this study are archived at EarthChem (https://doi.org/10.1594/IEDA/111335).
Hofmann, A. W. Chemical differentiation of the Earth: the relationship between mantle, continental crust, and oceanic crust. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 90, 297–314 (1988).
Hofmann, A. W. in Treatise on Geochemistry, 2nd edn, Vol. 3 (eds Holland, H. D. & Turekian, K. T.) 67–101 (Elsevier, 2014).
Jackson, M. G. et al. Evidence for the survival of the oldest terrestrial mantle reservoir. Nature 466, 853–856 (2010).
Jackson, M. G. & Carlson, R. W. An ancient recipe for flood-basalt genesis. Nature 476, 316–319 (2011).
Pearson, D. G. et al. Hydrous mantle transition zone indicated by ringwoodite included within diamond. Nature 507, 221–224 (2014).
Nestola, F. et al. CaSiO3 perovskite in diamond indicates the recycling of oceanic crust into the lower mantle. Nature 555, 237–241 (2018).
Torsvik, T. H., Burke, K., Steinberger, B., Webb, S. J. & Ashwal, L. D. Diamonds sampled by plumes from the core–mantle boundary. Nature 466, 352–355 (2010).
Henning, A., Kiviets, G., Kurszlaukis, S., Barton, E. Mayaga-Mikolo, F. Early Proterozoic metamorphosed kimberlites from Gabon. International Kimberlite Conference: Extended Abstracts 8, https://doi.org/10.29173/ikc3024 (2003).
DePaolo, D. J. & Wasserburg, G. J. Nd isotopic variations and petrogenetic models. Geophys. Res. Lett. 3, 249–252 (1976).
Salters, V. J. M., Mallick, S., Hart, S. R., Langmuir, C. E. & Stracke, A. Domains of depleted mantle: new evidence from hafnium and neodymium isotopes. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 12, Q08001 (2011).
Lyubetskaya, T. & Korenaga, J. Chemical composition of the Earth’s primitive mantle and its variance: 1. Method and Results. J. Geophys. Res. 112, B03211 (2007).
Palme, H. & O’Neill, H. St. C. Treatise on Geochemistry, 2nd edn, Vol. 3 (eds Holland, H. D. & Turekian, K. T.) 1–39 (Elsevier, 2014).
Trela, J. et al. The hottest lavas of the Phanerozoic and the survival of deep Archaean reservoirs. Nat. Geosci. 10, 451–456 (2017).
Bouvier, A. & Boyet, M. Primitive Solar System materials and Earth share a common initial 142Nd abundance. Nature 537, 399–402 (2016).
Bouvier, A., Vervoort, J. D. & Patchett, P. J. The Lu-Hf and Sm-Nd isotopic composition of CHUR: constraints from unequilibrated chondrites and implications for the bulk composition of the terrestrial planets. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 273, 48–57 (2008).
McDonough, W. F. & Sun, S.-S. The composition of the Earth. Chem. Geol. 120, 223–253 (1995).
Workman, R. K. & Hart, S. R. Major and trace element composition of the depleted MORB mantle (DMM). Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 231, 53–72 (2005).
Rudnick, R. L. & Gao, S. in Treatise on Geochemistry, 2nd edn, Vol. 4 (eds Holland, H. D. & Turekian, K. T.) 1–51 (Elsevier, 2014).
Tachibana, Y., Kaneoka, I., Gaffney, A. & Upton, B. Ocean-island basalt-like source of kimberlite magmas from West Greenland revealed by high 3He/4He ratios. Geology 34, 273–276 (2006).
Timmerman, S. et al. Primordial and recycled helium isotope signatures in the mantle transition zone. Science 365, 692-694 (2019).
Chauvel, C., Lewin, E., Carpentier, M., Arndt, N. T. & Marini, J.-C. Role of recycled oceanic basalt and sediment in generating the Hf–Nd mantle array. Nat. Geosci. (2008).
Porter, K. A. & White, W. M. Deep mantle subduction flux. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 10, Q12016 (2009).
Hulett, S. R. W., Simonetti, A., Rasbury, E. T. & Hemming, N. G. Recycling of subducted crustal components into carbonatite melts revealed by boron isotopes. Nat. Geosci. 9, 904–908 (2016).
Condie, K. C. Supercontinents and superplume events: distinguishing signals in the geologic record. Phys. Earth Planet. Inter. 146, 319–332 (2004).
Maruyama, S., Santosh, M. & Zhao, D. Superplume, supercontinent, and post-perovskite: mantle dynamics and anti-plate tectonics on the core–mantle boundary. Gondwana Res. 11, 7–37 (2007).
Harte, B. & Richardson, S. Mineral inclusions in diamonds track the evolution of a Mesozoic subducted slab beneath West Gondwanaland. Gondwana Res. 21, 236–245 (2012).
Nowell, G. M. et al. Hf isotope systematics of kimberlite and their megacrysts: new constraints on their source regions. J. Petrol. 45, 1583–1612 (2004).
van der Hilst, R. D., Widiyantoro, S. & Engdahl, E. R. Evidence for deep mantle circulation from global tomography. Nature 386, 578–584 (1997).
Vervoort, J. D., Plank, T. & Prytulak, J. The Hf–Nd isotopic composition of marine sediments. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 75, 5903–5926 (2011).
Clement, C. R. A comparative geological study of some major kimberlite pipes in Northern Cape and Orange Free State. PhD thesis, Univ. of Cape Town (1982).
Kjarsgaard, B. A., Pearson, D. G., Tappe, S., Nowell, G. M. & Dowall, D. P. Geochemistry of hypabyssal kimberlites from Lac de Gras, Canada: comparisons to a global database and applications to the parent magma problem. Lithos 112, 236–248 (2009).
Le Roex, A. P., Bell, D. R. & Davis, P. Petrogenesis of group I kimberlites from Kimberley, South Africa: evidence from bulk rock geochemistry. J. Petrol. 44, 2261–2286 (2003).
Heaman, L. M. & Kjarsgaard, B. A. Timing of eastern North American kimberlite magmatism: continental extension of the Great Meteor hotspot track? Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 178, 253–268 (2000).
Eggins, S. M. et al. A simple method for the precise determination of ≥40 trace elements in geological samples by ICPMS using enriched isotope internal standardisation. Chem. Geol. 134, 311–326 (1997).
Ottley, C. J., Pearson, D. G. & Irvine, G. J. in Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry – Applications and Emerging Technologies (eds Holland, G. & Tanner, S. D.) 221–230 (Royal Society of Chemistry 2003).
Münker, C., Weyer, S., Scherer, E. & Mezger, K. Separation of high field strength elements (Nb, Ta, Zr, Hf) and Lu from rock samples for MC-ICPMS measurements. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 2, 1064 (2001).
Pin, C. & Santos-Zalduegui, J. F. Sequential separation of light rare-earth elements, thorium and uranium by miniaturized extraction chromatography: application to isotopic analyses of silicate rocks. Anal. Chim. Acta 339, 79–89 (1997).
Jweda, J., Bolge, L., Class, C. & Goldstein, S. L. High precision Sr-Nd-Hf-Pb isotopic compositions of USGS reference material BCR-2. Geostand. Geoanal. Res. 40, 101–115 (2016).
Dowall, D. P., Nowell, G. M. & Pearson, D. G. in Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry – Applications and Emerging Technologies (eds Holland, G. & Tanner, S. D.) 321–337 (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2003).
Nowell, G. M. & Parrish, R. R. in Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry: the New Millennium (eds Holland, J. G. & Tanner, S. D.) 298–310 (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2001).
Weis, D., Kieffer, B., Maerschalk, C., Pretorius, W. & Barling, J. High-precision Pb-Sr-Nd-Hf isotopic characterization of USGS BHVO-1 and BHVO-2 reference materials. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 6, Q02002 (2005).
Woodhead, J., Hergt, J., Phillips, D. & Paton, C. African kimberlites revisited: in situ Sr-isotope analysis of groundmass perovskite. Lithos 112, 311–317 (2009).
Griffin, W. L. et al. Emplacement ages and sources of kimberlites and related rocks in southern Africa: U-Pb ages and Sr-Nd isotopes of groundmass perovskite. Contrib. Mineral. Petrol. 168, 1032 (2014).
Woodhead, J., Hergt, J., Giuliani, A., Phillips, D. & Maas, R. Tracking continental-scale modification of the Earth’s mantle using zircon megacrysts. Geochem. Perspect. Lett. 4, 1727 (2017).
Tappe, S., Pearson, D. G., Kjarsgaard, B. A., Nowell, G. & Dowall, D. Mantle transition zone input to kimberlite magmatism near a subduction zone: origin of anomalous Nd–Hf systematics at Western Canada, Canada. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 371–372, 235–251 (2013).
Odin, D.S. et al. in Numerical Dating in Stratigraphy Part 1 (ed. Odin, G. S.) 123–148 (John Wiley & Sons, 1982).
Gale, A., Dalton, C. A., Langmuir, C. H., Su, Y. & Schilling, J.-G. The mean composition of ocean ridge basalts. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 14, 489–518 (2013).
Vervoort, J. D. & Blichert-Toft, J. Evolution of the depleted mantle: Hf isotope evidence from juvenile rocks through time. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 63, 533–556 (1999).
Chauvel, C. et al. Constraints from loess on the Hf–Nd isotopic composition of the upper continental crust. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 388, 48–58 (2014).
Scherer, E., Munker, C. & Mezger, K. Calibration of the lutetium–hafnium clock. Science 293, 683–687 (2001).
Söderlund, U., Patchett, P. J., Vervoort, J. D. & Isachsen, C. E. The 176Lu decay constant determined by Lu–Hf and U–Pb isotope systematics of Precambrian mafic intrusions. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 219, 311–324 (2004).
Lugmair, G. W. & Marti, K. Lunar initial 143Nd/144Nd: differential evolution of the lunar crust and mantle. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 39, 349–357 (1978).
Scotese, C. R. PALEOMAP PaleoAtlas for GPlates and the PaleoData Plotter http://www.earthbyte.org/paleomap-paleoatlas-for-gplates/ (2016).
Müller, R. D. et al. Ocean basin evolution and global-scale plate reorganization events since Pangea breakup. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 44, 107–138 (2016).
We thank the De Beers Group, S. Graham, B. Kjarsgaard and H. O’Brien for access to samples; M. Felgate and A Greig for technical assistance; D. Sandiford for advice on the use of GPlates; and S. Shirey for suggestions. R. Chesler and M. Felgate produced the Tanzania perovskite and Brazilian kimberlite data, respectively. J.W. and A.G. acknowledge funding from the Australian Research Council.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Peer review information Nature thanks Catherine Chauvel, Alex Sobolev and Richard J. Walker for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Extended data figures and tables
a, b, Model simulating the neodymium- (a) and hafnium- (b) isotope variations generated by the incorporation of subducted slab (normal MORB (N-MORB), plus 0–5% sediment) into a CHUR-like lower-mantle source region from which kimberlite melts are produced. c, The best fit to the observed data is achieved via the continuous addition (black arrows) of a 5% slab component (here, N-MORB) that has been allowed to age by 500 Myr (green arrows) before mixing with the CHUR source (95% in c). Evolution trajectories similar to the green arrows for N-MORB are generated in the model when incorporating a sedimentary component (which, for clarity, is not shown). The addition of 95% of a deep-mantle reservoir with primitive-mantle compositional characteristics would still be required as a starting point for each mixing step.
Although assimilation of DMM by an ascending enriched ‘kimberlite’ component might be considered the most obvious way of generating the steep data arrays in the anomalous kimberlites, melts of any given age must mix with DMM of the same age. Thus, mixing vectors do not point towards modern DMM; they are vertical in age versus the isotope-ratio diagrams. Consequently, any constant proportion of DMM entrainment will not produce the steep arrays noted in the anomalous-kimberlite data. Instead, a progressive and substantial increase in the DMM component with successive magmatic episodes (vertical displacement) would be required—which would also have to be highly correlated with the age of mixing (horizontal displacement). Similar vectors are obtained by mixing with primitive, rather than depleted, mantle.
About this article
Cite this article
Woodhead, J., Hergt, J., Giuliani, A. et al. Kimberlites reveal 2.5-billion-year evolution of a deep, isolated mantle reservoir. Nature 573, 578–581 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1574-8
This article is cited by
Nature Communications (2023)
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment (2023)
Scientific Reports (2023)
Perovskite geochronology and petrogenesis of the Neoproterozoic Mad Gap Yards ultramafic lamprophyre dykes, East Kimberley region, Western Australia
Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology (2023)
Light oxygen isotopes in mantle-derived magmas reflect assimilation of sub-continental lithospheric mantle material
Nature Communications (2021)