Hot spot tracks approach, cross, and leave ridge axes. The complications of this process make it difficult to determine the track followed by a plume and the evolution of its vigor. When a plume is sufficiently near the ridge axis, buoyant plume material flows along the base of the lithosphere toward the axis, forming an on-axis hot spot. The track of the on-axis hot spot is a symmetric V on both plates and an unreliable indication of the path followed by the plume. Aseismic ridges form more or less along flowlines from a plume to a ridge axis when channels form at the base of the lithosphere. A dynamic effect is that off-axis hot spots appear to shut off at the time that an on-axis hot spot becomes active along an axis-approaching track. This produces a gap in the obvious track and a jump of the hot spot to the ridge axis. The gap results from the effects of ponded plume material on intraplate (membrane) stress. Membrane tension lets dikes ascend efficiently to produce obvious tracks of edifices. An off-axis hot spot shuts down when the plume is sufficiently near the ridge axis that plume material flows there, putting the nearby lithosphere above the plume into compression, preventing dikes. In addition, the off-axis thickness of plume material, which produces membrane tension, decreases as the slope of the base of the lithosphere increases beneath young lithosphere. Slow spreading rates favor gaps produced in this way. Gaps are observed near both fast and slow ridges.