Abstract

Our understanding of melt generation, migration, and extraction in the Earth’s mantle beneath mid-oceanic ridges is mostly derived from geodynamic numerical models constrained by geological and geophysical observations at sea and field investigations of ophiolites, and is therefore restricted to the oceanic crust and the shallow part of the mantle. Here we use a >200-km-long, deep seismic reflection section to image with high resolution the sub-oceanic lithosphere within the Western Somali Basin (offshore eastern Africa) where spreading ceased at ca. 120 Ma. The location of the failed spreading axis is inferred from both seismic data and gravity data. Several groups of strong reflections are imaged to depths of >30 km below the top of the oceanic crust. We interpret the deepest reflectors, within the mantle, as resulting from frozen melt bodies which may be relicts of a paleo–melt channel system located at the base of the lithosphere and formerly feeding the failed ridge axis. Other reflectors within the mantle may correspond to melt bodies injected into major shear zones along the Davie fracture zone. Another group of reflectors, located below a 8–5-km-thick oceanic crust, is interpreted as marking a fossil melt-rich crust-mantle transition zone as much as 3 km thick. This interpretation implies an inefficient extraction of melt out of the mantle, which is favored by the combination of a slow spreading rate and a high magma budget.

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