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    Progress in Earth and Planetary Science

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    Solid earth sciences


    Geophysical investigation of the Mado Megamullion oceanic core complex: implications for the end of back-arc spreading

    Kyoko Okino, Kenichiro Tani, Masakazu Fujii, Fei Zhou, Osamu Ishizuka, Yasuhiko Ohara, Tomoko Hanyu, Yuki Matamura

    Geophysical mapping, Rock age dating, Back-arc basin, Oceanic core complex, Detachment, Mid-ocean ridge process, Oceanic crust

    Whale-eye view of the Mado Megamullion OCC and its geological interpretation. The termination (hanging wall cut off) of the detachment continues to the remnant spreading axis, suggesting that the melt-poor, tectonic dominant spreading occurred at the final stage of back-arc basin formation

    Detachment faulting is one of the main styles of seafloor spreading at slow to intermediate mid-ocean ridges. However, we have limited insight into its role in back-arc basin formation. We surveyed a remnant back-arc spreading center in the Philippine Sea and determined the detailed features and formation processes of the Mado Megamullion (Mado MM) oceanic core complex (OCC). This was undertaken in the context of back-arc evolution, based on the shipborne bathymetry, magnetics, and gravity with radiometric age dating of the rock samples collected. The Mado MM OCC has a typical OCC morphology with prominent corrugations on the domed surface and positive gravity anomalies, suggesting that there has been an exposure of the lower crust and mantle materials by a detachment fault. The downdip side of the detachment continues to the relict axial rift valley, which has indicated that the Mado MM OCC was formed at the end of the back-arc basin opening. The spreading rate of the basin decreased once when the spreading direction changed after six million years of stable trench perpendicular spreading. The rate then further decreased immediately prior to the end of the spreading when the Mado MM OCC was formed. The existence of other OCC-like structures in the neighboring segment and the previously reported OCCs along the Parece Vela Rift have indicated that the melt-poor, tectonic-dominant spreading is a widespread phenomenon at the terminal phase of back-arc spreading. The decrease in spreading rate in the later stage is consistent with the previous numerical modeling because of the decrease in trench retreat. In the Izu–Bonin–Mariana arc trench system, the rotation of the spreading axis and the resultant axis segmentation have enhanced the lithosphere cooling and constrained mantle upwelling, which caused the tectonic-dominant spreading at the final phase of the basin evolution.