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How the Mariana Volcanic Arc ends in the south

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Abstract

The southern Mariana Arc–Trench system is rapidly deforming, resulting in unusual interactions between arc and back-arc basin (BAB) magmatic systems. New geochemical data for volcanoes in this region are presented and explored. Tracey Seamount, an extinct submarine volcano about 30 km northwest of Guam, is the southernmost stratovolcano of the Mariana Arc. Tracey is built about 125 km above the subducted slab and has erupted a bimodal suite of typical arc mafic and felsic lavas as recently as 0.527 ± 0.023 Ma (40Ar/39Ar age). An unusual cluster of small basaltic volcanoes, informally termed the Alphabet Seamount Volcanic Province (ASVP), is found about where the next arc volcano to the southwest of Tracey Seamount should have grown. Samples from six of these volcanoes were studied here. At least two ASVP volcanoes were recently active, as shown by hydrothermal activity. The lack of magmatic focusing to build a single stratovolcano where the ASVP is situated reflects strong extension in the BAB. Construction of northern ASVP volcanoes is controlled by east–west extension accompanying opening of the Mariana Trough. In contrast, southern ASVP volcanoes are affected by north–south extension due to rapid rollback of a narrow slab of Pacific seafloor that is subducted along the east–west trending Challenger Deep segment of the Mariana Trench to the south. ASVP lava compositions are distinct from Tracey Seamount and other Mariana Arc lavas, instead showing affinities with Mariana Trough BAB basalt (BABBs): they are mafic, tholeiitic, low-K2O and LREE-depleted, with low 87Sr/86Sr, but show a subtle gradient from somewhat more arc-like lavas closer to the trench to BABBs farther west. The unusual tectonic setting of ASVP provides a unique perspective on how different arc magma batches reflect melting of mantle with strong compositional gradients which are mixed together beneath long-lived arc volcanoes but here rise to form scattered small ASVP volcanoes.

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Ancillary