Start of the Wilson Cycle at 3 Ga Shown by Diamonds from Subcontinental Mantle

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Science  22 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6041, pp. 434-436
DOI: 10.1126/science.1206275

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Mineral inclusions encapsulated in diamonds are the oldest, deepest, and most pristine samples of Earth’s mantle. They provide age and chemical information over a period of 3.5 billion years—a span that includes continental crustal growth, atmospheric evolution, and the initiation of plate tectonics. We compiled isotopic and bulk chemical data of silicate and sulfide inclusions and found that a compositional change occurred 3.0 billion years ago (Ga). Before 3.2 Ga, only diamonds with peridotitic compositions formed, whereas after 3.0 Ga, eclogitic diamonds became prevalent. We suggest that this resulted from the capture of eclogite and diamond-forming fluids in subcontinental mantle via subduction and continental collision, marking the onset of the Wilson cycle of plate tectonics.

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