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Publication Title

Journal of Petrology








The first known occurrence of rhyolite along the submarine segments of the mid-ocean ridge (MOR) system was discovered on Alarcon Rise, the northernmost segment of the East Pacific Rise (EPR), by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in 2012. Zircon trace element and Hf and O isotope patterns indicate that the rhyolite formed by extreme crystal fractionation of primary mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB) sourced from normal to enriched MOR mantle with little to no addition of continental lithosphere or hydrated oceanic crust. A large range in zircon ϵHf spanning 11 ϵ units is comparable to the range of whole rock ϵHf from the entire EPR. This variability is comparable to continental granitoids that develop over long periods of time from multiple sources. Zircon geochronology from Alarcon Rise suggests that at least 20 kyr was needed for rhyolite petrogenesis. Grain-scale textural discontinuities and trace element trends from zircon cores and rims are consistent with crystal fractionation from a MORB magma with possible perturbations associated with mixing or replenishment events. Comparison of whole rock and zircon oxygen isotopes with modeled fractionation and zircon-melt patterns suggests that, after they formed, rhyolite magmas entrained hydrated mafic crust from conduit walls during ascent and/or were hydrated by seawater in the vent during eruption. These data do not support a model where rhyolites formed directly from partial melts of hydrated oceanic crust or do they require assimilation of such crust during fractional crystallization, both models being commonly invoked for the formation of oceanic plagiogranites and dacites. A spatial association of highly evolved lavas (rhyolites) with an increased number of fault scarps on the northern Alarcon Rise might suggest that low magma flux for ∼20 kyr facilitated extended magma residence necessary to generate rhyolite from MORB.

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National Science Foundation

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.