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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Christine Peirce

Peirce, C., Reveley, G., Simao, N.M., Robinson, A.H., Funnell, M.J., Searle, R.C., MacLeod, C.J. & Reston, T.J. (2019). Constraints on crustal structure of adjacent OCCs and segment boundaries at 13N on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Geophysical Journal International 217(2): 988-1010.

Author(s) from Durham


The 13° N segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is an example of a morphologically well-studied slow spreading ridge segment populated with oceanic core complexes (OCCs). In this paper we present the results of a ∼200 km-long 2D seismic and gravity transect through this segment, the bounding fracture zones to the south and the ridge discontinuity to the north. We use this transect to consider the two end-member models of OCC evolution in which one, referred to as the Segment-scale model, implies they are interconnected with their detachments being part of a single segment-long feature, and the other, the Localised model, that each OCC is structurally isolated.

We show, using the 7.5 km s−1 velocity contour as the base of crust marker, that the crust is consistently relatively thin ridge-parallel, at ∼5 km-thick on average, and that, beneath the OCCs, the Moho marks the top of a velocity gradient transition into the mantle, rather than a distinct velocity discontinuity. Although each OCC is not traversed in an identical structural location, they show a different crustal velocity-density structure with depth, with along axis variations in this structure mirrored by the bathymetric deeps between them. Older OCCs have a contrasting velocity-depth signature to the currently active 13°20′N OCC. The 13°20′N OCC is distinct in that it does not show higher relative velocity at shallower crustal depth like its neighbours, while the 13°30′N OCC has an apparently thinner crust. Our combined P-wave seismic travel-time tomography and gravity forward modelling suggests that the OCCs of the 13° N segment are not interconnected at depth. To the north of the 13°30′N OCC, our modelling also suggests that the crust is being magmatically refreshed, or that the ridge axis is currently undergoing magmatic accretion with an associated ridge tip propagation occurring across the ridge discontinuity that marks its northern edge.

The profile also crosses the Marathon and Mercurius fracture zones that mark the southern limit of the 13° N segment and the southern ridge-transform intersection outside corner. Along profile, Marathon fracture zone offsets younger (∼1 My vs ∼8 My) oceanic crust than Mercurius fracture zone (∼8 My vs ∼11 My). When considered in combination, both seismic and gravity modelling suggest crustal thinning in the direct vicinity of the bathymetric valley of Marathon fracture zone, coupled with a region of low density that, most likely, reflects serpentinisation of the uppermost mantle. In addition, the crust captured between fracture zones appears relatively rotated about an E-W axis and uplifted to the north, with the upwards motion accommodated on the northern lateral edge of the bathymetric depression rather than in its centre. Both the outside corner and the crust bounded by fracture zones have velocity-depth characteristics similar to that of the 13° N segment OCCs rather than normally-accreted oceanic crust, particularly in the upper-to-middle crust.

Overall, our results support the Localised model of OCC evolution and suggest that fracture zones do not become locked immediately on transform-to-fracture transition as current models dictate.