Closing the loop: Subducted eclogites match thallium isotope compositions of ocean island basalts

Yunchao Shu, Sune G. Nielsen, Horst R. Marschall, Timm John, Jerzy Blusztajn, Maureen Auro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Thallium (Tl) isotope compositions of ocean island basalts (OIBs) have been proposed as a novel tracer of subducted oceanic crust and sediments in ocean island basalt sources, which could act as direct confirmation that deep mantle recycling eventually resurfaces through mantle upwelling to form ocean island basalt magmatism. However, it is unknown if oceanic crust that went through an active subduction zone would retain the Tl isotope compositions recorded in hydrothermally altered oceanic crust and authigenic marine sediments. In this study we present Tl isotope and concentration data for samples of subducted oceanic crust from five different locations: Zambezi Belt, Zambia; Cabo Ortegal complex, Iberian Massif, Spain; Raspas Complex, southwest Ecuador; Syros island, Cyclades, Greece; Tian Shan, northwest China. Thallium concentrations in most samples follow strong linear relationships with K, Rb, Cs and Ba, which strongly suggest that the mineral phengite is the primary control of Tl abundances in subducted oceanic crust. This conclusion is consistent with recent Tl data sets for arc lavas that imply residual phengite in the arc lava source regions as a strong control of Tl recycling. We find that Tl isotope compositions vary widely and systematically in each location depending on the protolith, metamorphic and metasomatic history of the samples. Samples from Cabo Ortegal and Raspas Complex reveal Tl isotope compositions similar to their protoliths, which were comprised of low-temperature altered oceanic crust. Tian Shan metamorphic rocks and Zambian eclogites reveal invariant Tl isotope values indistinguishable from average mantle, which is best explained by overprinting by metamorphic fluids that contained high concentrations of Tl and other alkali metals. Samples from Syros reveal a range of Tl isotope compositions from normal mantle towards values for pelagic clay sediments. The sediment-like values in Syros likely arose from fluids released from the surrounding mélange matrix that consists of serpentinite, metagabbros and metasediments. Each of the three Tl isotope ranges observed for subducted oceanic crust samples here are mirrored by individual OIB locations. Cabo Ortegal and Raspas Complex display Tl isotope compositions identical to St. Helena, suggesting that the HIMU component likely comprises subduction modified low-temperature altered oceanic crust. Thallium isotope ratios in Zambia and Tian Shan eclogites and blueschists are identical to lavas from Iceland, whereas Syros metamorphic rocks overlap almost exactly with lavas from Hawaii. Our data, therefore, show that Tl isotope compositions of oceanic crust and sediments can be traced through the subduction process and eventually is expressed largely unmodified in ocean island basalts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-148
Number of pages19
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Metamorphic fluid
  • Ocean island basalt
  • Oceanic eclogite
  • Phengite
  • Thallium isotope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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