Given that oceanic basalts form by partial melting of mantle peridotites that rise below mid-ocean ridges, peridotite and basalt should have identical Sr and Nd isotope ratios. We tested this concept on parallel sets of peridotites and basalts sampled from an exposed section of lithosphere representing 20 m.y. of accretion at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The 143Nd/144Nd ratios of the basaltic glasses stay constant, whereas those of the peridotitic clinopyroxenes extend both higher and lower than the basalt ratios, suggesting that the constant isotopic composition of the basalts results from mixing of melts released by peridotites from a broad region of the subridge mantle. The degree of melting undergone by the peridotites correlates inversely with their 143Nd/144Nd ratios. Small-scale isotopic heterogeneity of the peridotites may result from variable premelting metasomatism in the mantle, mostly during periodic, dynamic, subridge upwelling, possibly superimposed upon time-integrated radioactive decay of ancient heterogeneities.

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