Rutile-Bearing Refractory Eclogites: Missing Link Between Continents and Depleted Mantle

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Science  14 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5451, pp. 278-281
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5451.278

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A mass imbalance exists in Earth for Nb, Ta, and possibly Ti: continental crust and depleted mantle both have subchondritic Nb/Ta, Nb/La, and Ti/Zr, which requires the existence of an additional reservoir with superchondritic ratios, such as refractory eclogite produced by slab melting. Trace element compositions of minerals in xenolithic eclogites derived from cratonic lithospheric mantle show that rutile dominates the budget of Nb and Ta in the eclogites and imparts a superchondritic Nb/Ta, Nb/La, and Ti/Zr to the whole rocks. About 1 to 6 percent by weight of eclogite is required to solve the mass imbalance in the silicate Earth, and this reservoir must have an Nb concentration ≥ 2 parts per million, Nb/La ≥ 1.2, and Nb/Ta between 19 and 37—values that overlap those of the xenolithic eclogites. As the mass of eclogite in the continental lithosphere is significantly lower than this, much of this material may reside in the lower mantle, perhaps as deep as the core-mantle boundary.

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