The crust and mantle both in ophiolites (fossil ocean lithosphere) and in modern oceans are enormously diverse. Along-axis morphology and lower crustal accretion at ultraslow-spreading ocean ridges are fundamentally different from those at faster-spreading ridges, and are critical to understanding how crustal accretion varies with spreading rate and magma supply. Ultraslow-spreading ridges provide analogues for ophiolites, to identify those that may have formed under similar conditions. Parallel studies of modern ocean lithosphere and ophiolites therefore can uniquely inform the origin and genesis of both. Here we report the results of structural and petrological studies on the Xigaze ophiolite in the Tibetan Plateau, and compare it with the morphology and deep drilling results at the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge. The Xigaze ophiolite has a complete but laterally discontinuous crust, with discrete diabase dykes and sills cutting both mantle and lower crust. The gabbro units are thin (c. 350 m) and show upward cyclic chemical variations, supporting for an episodic and intermittent magma supply. These features are comparable with the highly focused magmatism and low magma budget at modern ultraslow-spreading ridges. Thus we suggest that the Xigaze ophiolite represents an on-land analogue of ultraslow-spreading ocean lithosphere.

Supplementary material: Single-spot analysis and average compositions for mineral major element compositions (wt.%) of the Jiding gabbro section, Xigaze ophiolite are available at

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