Abstract

Seismic reflection data show that the eastern Aleutian Arc is characterized by reflectors that extend continuously from the lower arc crust to >50 km depth, which is considerably deeper than the crustal thickness of 27–35 km previously inferred from coincident wide-angle seismic surveys. Because the upper mantle is commonly homogeneous, and therefore nonreflective, relative to the overlying crust, we interpret these reflectors to be gabbro, garnet gabbro, and pyroxenite intrusions within two 50-km-wide roots that represent a >25-km-thick heterogeneous transition from mafic lower crustal rocks to ultramafic mantle rocks. We suggest that the reflectivity is linked to repeated differentiation and intrusion of mantle-derived melts into the subarc lithosphere, and that the depth of these roots shows that fractionation of arc crust can extend well below the seismically determined Moho. Because these deep roots are not evident beneath the central Aleutian Arc, either the roots form sporadically, perhaps as a consequence of an elevated magmatic supply, or such roots ultimately founder into the underlying mantle due to their relatively high mass density.

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