Constancy of Nb/U in the mantle revisited
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Sun, W and Hu, Y and Kamenetsky, VS and Eggins, SM and Chen, M and Arculus, RJ, Constancy of Nb/U in the mantle revisited, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72, (14) pp. 3542-3549. ISSN 0016-7037 (2008) [Refereed Article]
It has long been proposed that MORB and OIB have constant supra-primitive mantle (PM) Nb/U values identical to each other. This fact together with complementary sub-PM values for the continental crust (CC), are taken as fundamental evidence, linking the mantle sources of MORB and OIB to the formation of the CC. Given that plate subduction at convergent margins is the major known process that dramatically fractionates Nb from U, and consequently that subducted oceanic slabs are the main primary carriers of supra-PM Nb/U, a constant supra-PM Nb/U in MORB mantle implies that the mixing of subducted oceanic crust is essentially finished or the newly recycled oceanic crust has Nb/U close to that of the mantle. The similarity between Nb and U as well as the constancy of Nb/U in MORB are revisited here based on MORB glass data obtained using laser ablation ICP-MS. The result shows that Nb/U is not correlated with Nb/Hf, supporting that Nb and U are similarly incompatible. Further investigation shows that Nb is not perfectly identical to, but is faintly more incompatible than U as indicated by the good correlation between log(U) and log(Nb) with a slope of 0.954, very close to 1. Nonetheless, the similarity between Nb and U is high enough, such that the average Nb/U value of MORB glasses should be very close to that of the MORB mantle. By contrast, the difference between Ce and Pb is more obvious. Ce is more incompatible than Pb with a slope of 1.13 in a log(Pb) versus log(Ce) diagram. Therefore, the Ce/Pb of MORB should be a little bit higher than that of the mantle source. The Nb/U value is not as uniform as expected for the similar incompatibility in studied MORB glasses, but varies by a factor of ∼2, suggesting that MORB mantle source is not yet homogenized in term of Nb/U. This indicates that the mixing back of subducted oceanic crust is still an ongoing process, i.e., subducted oceanic crust is recycling back after staying in the lower mantle for billions of years. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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