Foundering-driven lithospheric melting: The source of central Andean mafic lavas on the Puna Plateau (22°S-27°S)

Kendra E. Murray, Mihai N. Ducea, Lindsay Schoenbohm

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

46 Scopus citations


Investigations of lithospheric foundering and related magmatism have long focused on the central Andes, where there are postulated links between the eruption of mantle-derived lavas and periodic loss of the lower lithosphere. Whole-rock elemental and Nd-Sr-Pb isotopic results from a suite of late Miocene-Quaternary mafic lavas erupted onto the Puna Plateau clarify the relationship between this hypothesized process and lava composition. Zinc and Fe provide a critical perspective because they are partitioned differently during the melting of asthenospheric and lithospheric mantle. All Puna lavas have Zn/FeT (×104) values >13, which requires clinopyroxene and perhaps garnet to be the dominant phase(s) in the melt source; this precludes a melt source of typical mantle asthenosphere. This result is contrary to classic models of delamination magmatism that suggest asthenospheric peridotite melts to generate these lavas. Pyroxenite (±garnet)-bearing lithospheric materials in the central Andes are likely common and heterogeneous in age, volatile content, and mineralogical composition, and if they are the melt source, this can explain the diversity in the elemental (La/Yb = 11-45; La/Ta = 22-40) and isotopic (87Sr/86Sr = 0.7055-0.7080;εNd = -1 to -7) compositions of these mafic magmas (MgO > 8%, Mg number > 60). We propose that compositionally diverse, gravitationally unstable pyroxenites both drive "dripping" of the lower lithosphere and are the source of the resulting melt. We also postulate that mantle-derived lavas erupted on the Puna Plateau were generated during localized foundering and melting of these materials. The cumulative effect of these drip events is a modern Puna Plateau with geodynamic anomalies including thin lithosphere and anomalously high surface elevation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGeodynamics of a Cordilleran Orogenic System
Subtitle of host publicationThe Central Andes of Argentina and Northern Chile
EditorsMihai N. Ducea, Mihai N. Ducea, Peter G. DeCelles, Paul A. Kapp, Barbara Carrapa
PublisherGeological Society of America
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780813712123
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameMemoir of the Geological Society of America
ISSN (Print)0072-1069

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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