Ultramafic-mafic plutonic rock suites exposed along the mid-atlantic ridge (10°N-30°N). Symmetrical-asymmetrical distribution and implications for seafloor spreading processes

Yves Lagabrielle, Daniel Bideau, Mathilde Cannat, Jeffirey A. Karson, Catherine Mével

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

127 Scopus citations


Along specific portions of the axis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), the spreading of the lithosphere appears to occur without abundant magmatism. Horizontal extension of the ocean floor is then accommodated mostly by tectonic stretching. Such tectonically govemed processes lead to the creation of an ocean basement composed of mantle-derived ultramafics and associated mafie plutonic rocks. In this páper, we present a review of the geological and tectonic settings of the most intensively surveyed areas where such mantie and deep crustal rocks have been recovered along the central Atlantic Ridge between 15°N and 35°30'N. The regions where detailed geological observations have been made are: 1. the intersection high north of Oceanographer fracture zone, 2. two intersection highs near small-offset axial discontinuities north of Hayes fracture zone, 3. the region south of the Kane fracture zone near 23°N (MARK area), 4. the northem and southem intersections of the 15°20'N fracture zone, and 5. off-axis oblique depressions representing the trace of migrating segment discontinuities in the MARK area. Mantle-derived serpentinites and associated gabbros are commonly exposed along only one side of the axial valley wall, that is, asymmetrically with respect to the spreading axis, while basaltic formations are found on the opposite wall. However, we emphasize that such an asymmetrical distribution in the topography, structure, and geology of the axial valley is not observed all along the studied areas of the MAR, for example in the 15°N region where serpentinized peridotites are documented across wide areas on both sides of the axis. Two major points are diseussed. (1) The processes leading to the unroofing of mantle ultramafics and associated rocks are not necessarily linked to a stage of amagmatic extension of a previously constructed thick crust; some appear to occur in areas of permanent low magma budget, at segment ends or within wider regions of starved magma production. Such regions may retain this character over millions of years as shown by the geology of the off-axis traces of axial discontinuities. (2) Since geological settings with a symmetrical distribution of deep crustal and mantle rocks on the valley walls are found, a model of asymmetrical extension and denudation along a single major detachment fault cannot be applied all along the ridge axis. This implies that more attention must be paid to the degree of across-axis asymmetry or symmetry of tectonic processes responsible for the uplift and exposure of mantle-derived and lower crustal rocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFaulting and Magmatism at Mid-Ocean Ridges, 1998
EditorsPaul T. Delaney, W. Roger Buck, Jeffrey A. Karson, Yves Lagabrielle
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781118664506
ISBN (Print)9780875900896
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameGeophysical Monograph Series
ISSN (Print)0065-8448
ISSN (Electronic)2328-8779

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics


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