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Title: High 3 He/ 4 He in central Panama reveals a distal connection to the Galápagos plume
It is well established that mantle plumes are the main conduits for upwelling geochemically enriched material from Earth's deep interior. The fashion and extent to which lateral flow processes at shallow depths may disperse enriched mantle material far (>1,000 km) from vertical plume conduits, however, remain poorly constrained. Here, we report He and C isotope data from 65 hydrothermal fluids from the southern Central America Margin (CAM) which reveal strikingly high 3 He/ 4 He (up to 8.9R A ) in low-temperature (≤50 °C) geothermal springs of central Panama that are not associated with active volcanism. Following radiogenic correction, these data imply a mantle source 3 He/ 4 He >10.3R A (and potentially up to 26R A , similar to Galápagos hotspot lavas) markedly greater than the upper mantle range (8 ± 1R A ). Lava geochemistry (Pb isotopes, Nb/U, and Ce/Pb) and geophysical constraints show that high 3 He/ 4 He values in central Panama are likely derived from the infiltration of a Galápagos plume–like mantle through a slab window that opened ∼8 Mya. Two potential transport mechanisms can explain the connection between the Galápagos plume and the slab window: 1) sublithospheric transport of Galápagos plume material channeled by lithosphere thinning along the Panama Fracture Zone or 2) active upwelling of Galápagos plume material blown by a “mantle wind” toward the CAM. We present a model of global mantle flow that supports the second mechanism, whereby most of the eastward transport of Galápagos plume material occurs in the shallow asthenosphere. These findings underscore the potential for lateral mantle flow to transport mantle geochemical heterogeneities thousands of kilometers away from plume conduits.  more » « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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