EGU24-5261, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Oceanic core complexes: Serpentinite diapirs at slow ridge - transform fault intersections?

Yossi Mart
Yossi Mart
  • Haifa University, Maritime Studies, Haifa, Israel (

Oceanic Core Complexes (OCCs) are peridotite and serpentinite rich geological features, commonly located at the external intersections of slow-spreading mid-oceanic accreting ridges (MORs) with transform faults (TFs). The peridotites of these complexes are commonly considered to derive from the upper mantle while the serpentinites are attributed to chemical weathering that affected rock-mass during its ascent through the lithosphere. Description of cores drilled into OCCs commonly describes in detail the various peridotites but ignores the serpentinites, which are considered secondary additions. However, this presumption seems flawed due to the absence of high-pressure rocks such as eclogites, therefore it seems that the origin of the various peridotite minerals were formed concurrently with the serpentinites from pyroxenes under constrains of moderate geological pressures and temperatures, and various availabilities of H2O.

The intersections between slow MORs and TFs, where most OCCs occur, are characterized by steep thermal gradients and by distinct density contrasts. The thermal gradients in the upper crust of the MOR axial rift are nearly 1300/km, due to the shallow depth of the upper mantle there. The density of the fresh basaltic lava at the MOR is ca. 2700 kg/m3, because the temperature of the fresh basalt is some 1100oC. However, the density of the older basalt that builds the older plate across the transform fault is 2900 kg/m3. It is plausible that at fast-spreading MORs the plate juxtaposed against the active spreading rift would still be warm and its density would too light to initiate the spontaneous subduction. Tectonic experiments showed that at least 200 kg/m3 density contrast between lighter and denser crustal slabs would be sufficient to initiate spontaneous subduction. Furthermore, geochemical experimentation shows that under 500oC temperatures, namely at depths of ca. 4 km under the MOR, minerals of the pyroxene group in the oceanic basalts, are likely to be altered either into peridotites under dry conditions or into serpentinites under wet constraints at such temperature. These constraints suggest that the serpentinites in OCCs are generic and not erosional features, and their light densities and plasticity could have generated the diapiric ascent of the OCCs. The density contrast between the fresh and the old basalts, juxtaposed at the ridge – transform junctions, could take place if the spreading rate of the MOR is slow and the older slab has the time required to cool and reach the density of 2900 kg/m3.

 Keywords: Ridge-transform intersection, oceanic core complexes, spontaneous subduction, peridotites, serpentinites, diapirs.

How to cite: Mart, Y.: Oceanic core complexes: Serpentinite diapirs at slow ridge - transform fault intersections?, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-5261,, 2024.