East Mariana Basin tholeiites: Cretaceous intraplate basalts or rift basalts related to the Ontong Java plume?
Studies of seafloor magnetic anomaly patterns suggest the presence of Jurassic oceanic crust in a large area in the western Pacific that includes the East Mariana, Nauru and Pigafetta Basins. Sampling of the igneous crust in this area by the Deep Sea Drilling Program (DSDP) and the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) allows direct evaluation of the age and petrogenesis of this crust. ODP Leg 129 drilled a 51 m sequence of basalt pillows and massive flows in the central East Mariana Basin. 40Ar/39Ar ages determined in this study for two Leg 129 basalts average 114.6 ± 3.2 Ma. This age is in agreement with the Albian-late Aptian paleontologic age of the overlying sediments, but is distinctively younger than the Jurassic age predicted by magnetic anomaly patterns in the basin. Compositionally, the East Mariana Basin basalts are uniformly low-K tholeiites that are depleted in highly incompatible elements compared to moderately incompatible ones, which is typical of mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB) erupted near hotspots. The Sr, Nd and Pb isotopic compositions of the tholeiites ( 87Sr/86Sr init = 0.70360-0.70374 ; 143Nd/144Nd init = 0.512769-0.512790 ; 206Pb/204Pb meas = 18.355-18.386 ) also overlap with some Indian Ocean Ridge MORB, although they are distinct from the isotopic compositions of Jurassic basalts drilled in the Pigafetta Basin, the oldest Pacific MORB. The isotopic compositions of the East Mariana Basin tholeiites are also similar to those of intraplate basalts, and in particular, to the isotopic signature of basalts from the nearby Ontong Java and Manihiki Plateaus. The East Mariana Basin tholeiites also share many petrologic and isotopic characteristics with the oceanic basement drilled in the Nauru Basin at DSDP Site 462. In addition, the new 110.8 ± 1.0 Ma 40Ar/39Ar age for two flows from the bottom of Site 462 in the Nauru Basin is indistinguishable from the age of the East Mariana Basin flows. Thus, while magnetic anomaly patterns predict that the igneous basement in the Nauru and East Mariana Basins is Jurassic in age, the geochemical and chronological results discussed here suggest that the basement formed during a Cretaceous rifting event within the Jurassic crust. This magmatic and tectonic event was created by the widespread volcanism responsible for the genesis of the large oceanic plateaus of the western Pacific.