Thin oceanic crust and flood basalts: India-Seychelles breakup



Recent seismic experiments showed that separation of India from the Seychelles occurred in two phases of rifting. The first brief phase of rifting between India and the Laxmi Ridge formed the Gop Rift, which is characterized by thick oceanic crust and underplating of the adjacent continental margins. The age of the Gop Rift is uncertain, initiation of seafloor spreading being some time between 71 and 66 Ma. This was then followed by rifting and seafloor spreading between the Laxmi Ridge and the Seychelles, the onset of which is well dated by magnetic anomalies at 63.4 Ma and characterized by thin oceanic crust. Both of these rift events occurred within 1000 km of the center of the Deccan flood basalts, which formed at 65 ± 1 Ma. To constrain the age of the Gop Rift and to explore the reasons for the change in crustal structure between the Gop Rift and Seychelles-Laxmi Ridge margins, we employ a geodynamic model of rift evolution in which melt volumes, seismic velocity, and rare earth element (REE) chemistry of the melt are estimated. We explore the consequences of different thermal structures, hydration, and depletion on the melt production during the India-Seychelles breakup to understand the reasons behind the thin oceanic crust observed. Magmatism at the Gop Rift is consistent with a model in which the seafloor spreading began at 71 Ma, ca. 6 Myr prior to the Deccan. The opening occurred above a hot mantle layer (temperature of 200°C, thickness of 50 km) that we interpret as incubated Deccan material, which had spread laterally beneath the lithosphere. This scenario is consistent with observed lower crustal seismic velocities of 7.4 km s−1 and 12 km igneous crustal thickness. The model indicates that when the seafloor spreading migrated to the Seychelles-Laxmi Ridge at 63 Ma, the thermal anomaly was reduced significantly but not sufficient to explain the observed reduction in breakup magmatism. From observations here of 5.2 km oceanic crust, lower crustal seismic velocities of 6.9 km s−1 and a flat REE profile, we infer that breakup occurred in a region of mantle that became depleted by prior extension related to the Gop Rift.