The process by which continental crust has formed is not well understood, though such crust mostly forms at convergent plate margins today. It is thus imperative to study modern intra-oceanic arcs, such as those common in the western Pacific Ocean. New seismic studies along the representative Izu-Bonin intra-oceanic arc provide unique along-strike images of arc crust and uppermost mantle to complement earlier, cross-arc lithospheric profiles. These reveal two scales (1000–10 km scale) of variations, one at the scale of the Izu versus Bonin (thick versus thin) arc crust, the other at the intervolcano (∼50 km) scale. These images show that: (1) the bulk composition of the Izu-Bonin arc crust is more mafic than typical continental crust, (2) the middle crust with seismic velocities similar to continental crust is predominantly beneath basaltic arc volcanoes, (3) the bulk composition beneath basaltic volcanoes changes little at thick and thin arc segments, and (4) a process to return lower crustal components to the mantle, such as delamination, is required for an arc crust to evolve into continental crust. Continued thickening of the Izu-Bonin crust, accompanied by delamination of lowermost crust, can yield velocity structure of typical continental crust.

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