Chondritic xenon in the Earth’s mantle

Antonio Caracausi,Guillaume Avice,Peter G. Burnard, Evelyn Füri,Bernard Marty

Nature (25 April 2016) | doi:10.1038/nature17434


“Noble gas isotopes are powerful tracers of the origins of planetary volatiles, and the accretion and evolution of the Earth. The compositions of magmatic gases provide insights into the evolution of the Earth’s mantle and atmosphere. Despite recent analytical progress in the study of planetary materials8, 9 and mantle-derived gases the possible dual origin of the planetary gases in the mantle and the atmosphere remains unconstrained. Evidence relating to the relationship between the volatiles within our planet and the potential cosmochemical end-members is scarce5. Here we show, using high-precision analysis of magmatic gas from the Eifel volcanic area (in Germany), that the light xenon isotopes identify a chondritic primordial component that differs from the precursor of atmospheric xenon. This is consistent with an asteroidal origin for the volatiles in the Earth’s mantle, and indicates that the volatiles in the atmosphere and mantle originated from distinct cosmochemical sources. Furthermore, our data are consistent with the origin of Eifel magmatism being a deep mantle plume. The corresponding mantle source has been isolated from the convective mantle since about 4.45 billion years ago, in agreement with models that predict the early isolation of mantle domains11. Xenon isotope systematics support a clear distinction between mid-ocean-ridge and continental or oceanic plume sources6, with chemical heterogeneities dating back to the Earth’s accretion1, 7. The deep reservoir now sampled by the Eifel gas had a lower volatile/refractory (iodine/plutonium) composition than the shallower mantle sampled by mid-ocean-ridge volcanism, highlighting the increasing contribution of volatile-rich material during the first tens of millions of years of terrestrial accretion.”