TOBI sidescan sonar imagery of the very slow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge: evidence for along-axis magma distribution

D Sauter, LM Parson, V Mendel, C Rommevaux Jestin, O Gomez, A Briais, C Mevel, K Tamaki, P Blondel, D Boulanger

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New deep tow sidescan sonar data from the Southwest Indian Ridge reveal complex volcanic/tectonic interrelationships in the axial zone of this ultra-slow spreading ridge. While some constructional volcanic features resemble examples documented at the slow-spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge, such as axial volcanic ridges, hummocky and smooth lava flows, their distribution and dimensions differ markedly. The largest axial volcanic ridges occur at segment centres, but fresh-looking volcanic constructions also occur at segment ends and in the deep basins marking the non-transform discontinuities. The orientations of the dominant fault population and main volcanic ridges are controlled by tectonic processes such as orthogonal extension in the sections of the ridge perpendicular to the spreading direction and transtensional extension in the obliquely spreading sections of the ridge. Minor faults and small volcanic ridges striking parallel to the axis in the oblique part of the ridge are not controlled by these extensional regimes. This observation suggests that the ridge axis acts as a zone of weakness and that magmatic processes, with associated fractures opening in response to magma pressure, may control local emplacements of axial volcanic ridges at obliquely spreading ridges. This non-systematic pattern of ridge characteristics suggests an along-axis variation between focused and distributed magmatic supply, a model which is supported by our interpretation of low-amplitude mantle Bouguer anomalies calculated for the area. We propose that a change of the axial segmentation pattern, from two segments to the present-day three segments, may have introduced additional instability into the crustal accretion process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81--95
Number of pages15
JournalEath and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - May 2002


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