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Keywords:

  • Mid-ocean ridges;
  • mantle plumes;
  • segmentation

[1] Complete multibeam bathymetric coverage of the western Galápagos Spreading Center (GSC) between 90.5°W and 98°W reveals the fine-scale morphology, segmentation and influence of the Galápagos hot spot on this intermediate spreading ridge. The western GSC comprises three morphologically defined provinces: A Western Province, located farthest from the Galápagos hot spot west of 95°30′W, is characterized by an axial deep, rift valley morphology with individual, overlapping, E-W striking segments separated by non-transform offsets; A Middle Province, between the propagating rift tips at 93°15′W and 95°30′W, with transitional axial morphology strikes ∼276°; An Eastern Province, closest to the Galápagos hot spot between the ∼90°50′W Galápagos Transform and 93°15′W, with an axial high morphology generally less than 1800 m deep, strikes ∼280°. At a finer scale, the axial region consists of 32 individual segments defined on the basis of smaller, mainly <2 km, offsets. These offsets mainly step left in the Western and Middle Provinces, and right in the Eastern Province. Glass compositions indicate that the GSC is segmented magmatically into 8 broad regions, with Mg # generally decreasing to the west within each region. Striking differences in bathymetric and lava fractionation patterns between the propagating rifts with tips at 93°15′W and 95°30′W reflect lower overall magma supply and larger offset distance at the latter. The structure of the Eastern Province is complicated by the intersection of a series of volcanic lineaments that appear to radiate away from a point located on the northern edge of the Galápagos platform, close to the southern limit of the Galápagos Fracture Zone. Where these lineaments intersect the GSC, the ridge axis is displaced to the south through a series of overlapping spreading centers (OSCs); abandoned OSC limbs lie even farther south. We propose that southward displacement of the axis is promoted during intermittent times of increased plume activity, when lithospheric zones of weakness become volcanically active. Following cessation of the increased plume activity, the axis straightens by decapitating southernmost OSC limbs during short-lived propagation events. This process contributes to the number of right stepping offsets in the Eastern Province.