Ridge segmentation and the magnetic structure of the Southwest Indian Ridge (at 50°30′E, 55°30′E and 66°20′E): Implications for magmatic processes at ultraslow-spreading centers



[1] The aim of this paper is to investigate the relationships between the segmentation and the magnetic structure of the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge. Contrary to faster spreading ridges, magnetization usually decreases from high values along the neovolcanic axis to low values in the nontransform discontinuities. There is a direct correlation between the deepening of the axial valley and the decrease of the magnetization from the neovolcanic axis toward the deepest parts of the axial discontinuities. We suggest that less frequent eruptions as the distance from the segment center and the length of these discontinuities increase, result in thinner extrusive lavas and thus control the along-axis magnetization variations by thinning the magnetic source layer. A unique segment centered at 50°28′E shows a marked low magnetization anomaly at its center similarly to the segments of the slow-spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge. We suggest that in this segment both the mantle temperature and the magmatic activity are high enough for the lavas not to be highly fractionated. A higher rate of melt production to the west of Gallieni transform fault may have created some form of reservoir where mixing of melts occurs and where crystalline fractionation is low producing low-magnetization lavas. To the east, magma chambers may be smaller with cooler mantle temperatures resulting in restricted mixing and significant fractionation which may lead to relatively high intensity magnetization lavas. Finally, we propose that serpentinization of peridotites has no significant contribution to the variation of the magnetization along the axial valley. Off-axis, in thin crust areas, upper mantle rocks may become progressively more altered, as distance from the axis increases. The strong faulting and alteration of a thin basaltic cap and underlying upper mantle rocks can produce the disappearance of the magnetic reversal pattern and the increase of the magnetization which is observed along the traces of the largest amagmatic discontinuities. By contrast, in thicker crust areas, the upper mantle rocks are shielded from the alteration and the serpentinization process may be delayed resulting, as on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, in slightly more positive magnetization values along the traces of axial discontinuities, regardless of polarity.