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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Julie Prytulak

Maunder, B., Prytulak, J., Goes, S. & Reagan, M. (2020). Rapid subduction initiation and magmatism in the Western Pacific driven by internal vertical forces. Nature Communications 11(1): 1874.

Author(s) from Durham


Plate tectonics requires the formation of plate boundaries. Particularly important is the enigmatic initiation of subduction: the sliding of one plate below the other, and the primary driver of plate tectonics. A continuous, in situ record of subduction initiation was recovered by the International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 352, which drilled a segment of the fore-arc of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana subduction system, revealing a distinct magmatic progression with a rapid timescale (approximately 1 million years). Here, using numerical models, we demonstrate that these observations cannot be produced by previously proposed horizontal external forcing. Instead a geodynamic evolution that is dominated by internal, vertical forces produces both the temporal and spatial distribution of magmatic products, and progresses to self-sustained subduction. Such a primarily internally driven initiation event is necessarily whole-plate scale and the rock sequence generated (also found along the Tethyan margin) may be considered as a smoking gun for this type of event.