Deformation associated with the denudation of mantle-derived rocks at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 13°–15°N: The role of magmatic injections and hydrothermal alteration



[1] Outcrops of deeply derived ultramafic rocks and gabbros are widespread along slow spreading ridges where they are exposed in the footwall of detachment faults. We report on the microstructural and petrological characteristics of a large number of samples from ultramafic exposures in the walls of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) axial valley at three distinct locations at lat. 13°N and 14°45′N. One of these locations corresponds to the footwall beneath a corrugated paleo-fault surface. Bearing in mind that dredging and ROV sampling may not preserve the most fragile lithologies (fault gouges), this study allows us to document a sequence of deformation, and the magmatic and hydrothermal history recorded in the footwall within a few hundred meters of the axial detachment fault. At the three sampled locations, we find that tremolitic amphiboles have localized deformation in the ultramafic rocks prior to the onset of serpentinization. We interpret these tremolites as hydrothermal alteration products after evolved gabbroic rocks intruded into the peridotites. We also document two types of brittle deformation in the ultramafic rocks, which we infer could produce the sustained low magnitude seismicity recorded at ridge axis detachment faults. The first type of brittle deformation affects fresh peridotite and is associated with the injection of the evolved gabbroic melts, and the second type affects serpentinized peridotites and is associated with the injection of Si-rich hydrothermal fluids that promote talc crystallization, leading to strain localization in thin talc shear zones. We also observed chlorite + serpentine shear zones but did not identify samples with serpentine-only shear zones. Although the proportion of magmatic injections in the ultramafic rocks is variable, these characteristics are found at each investigated location and are therefore proposed as fundamental components of the deformation in the footwall of the detachment faults associated with denudation of mantle-derived rocks at the MAR.