Silver contents and Cu/Ag ratios in Martian meteorites and the implications for planetary differentiation

Zaicong Wang, Harry Becker

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 21 May 2017


“Silver and Cu show very similar partitioning behavior in sulfide melt-silicate melt and metal-silicate systems at low and high pressure-temperature (P-T) experimental conditions, implying that mantle melting, fractional crystallization and core-mantle differentiation have at most modest (within a factor of 3) effects on Cu/Ag ratios. For this reason, it is likely that Cu/Ag ratios in mantle-derived magmatic products of planetary bodies reflect that of the mantle and, in some circumstances, also the bulk planet composition. To test this hypothesis, new Ag mass fractions and Cu/Ag ratios in different groups of Martian meteorites are presented and compared with data from chondrites and samples from the Earth’s mantle.

Silver contents in lherzolitic, olivine-phyric and basaltic shergottites and nakhlites range between 1.9 and 12.3 ng/g. The data display a negative trend with MgO content and correlate positively with Cu contents. In spite of displaying variable initial Ɛ143Nd values and representing a diverse spectrum of magmatic evolution and physiochemical conditions, shergottites and nakhlites display limited variations of Cu/Ag ratios (1080±320, 1s, n=14). The relatively constant Cu/Ag suggests limited fractionation of Ag from Cu during the formation and evolution of the parent magmas, irrespectively of whether sulfide saturation was attained or not. The mean Cu/Ag ratio of Martian meteorites thus reflects that of the Martian mantle and constrains its Ag content to 1.9±0.7 ng/g (1s).

Carbonaceous and enstatite chondrites display a limited range of Cu/Ag ratios of mostly 500-2400. Ordinary chondrites show a larger scatter of Cu/Ag up to 4500, which may have been caused by Ag redistribution during parent body metamorphism. The majority of chondrites have Cu/Ag ratios indistinguishable from the Martian mantle value, indicating that Martian core formation strongly depleted Cu and Ag contents, but probably did not significantly change the Cu/Ag ratio of the mantle compared to bulk Mars. Bulk Mars is richer in moderately volatile elements than Earth, however, the Martian mantle displays a much stronger depletion of the moderately volatile elements Cu and Ag, e.g., by a factor of 15 for Cu. This observation is consistent with experimental studies suggesting that core formation at low P-T conditions on Mars led to more siderophile behavior of Cu and Ag than at high P-T conditions as proposed for Earth. In contrast, Cu/Ag ratios of the mantles of Mars and Earth (Cu/AgEarth=3500±1000) display only a difference by a factor of 3, which implies restricted fractionation of Cu and Ag even at high P-T conditions. The concentration data support the notion that siderophile element partitioning during planetary core formation scales with the size of the planetary body, which is particularly important for the differentiation of large terrestrial planets such as Earth. Collectively, the Ag and Cu data on magmatic products from the mantles of Mars and Earth and the data on chondrites confirm experimental predictions and support the limited fractionation of Cu and Ag during planetary core formation and high-temperature magmatic evolution, and probably also in early solar nebular processes.”