Missing Lead and High 3He/4He in Ancient Sulfides Associated with Continental Crust Formation
Lee, Cin-Ty A.
Major terrestrial reservoirs have Pb isotopes more radiogenic than the bulk silicate Earth. This requires a missing unradiogenic Pb reservoir, which has been argued to reside in the lower continental crust or dissolved in the core. Chalcophile element studies indicate that continent formation requires the formation of sulfide-bearing mafic cumulates in arcs. Because Pb, but not U, partitions into sulfides, we show that continent formation must have simultaneously generated time-integrated unradiogenic Pb reservoirs composed of sulfide-bearing cumulates, now recycled back into the mantle or stored deep in the continental lithosphere. The generation of such cumulates could also lead to coupled He-Pb isotopic systematics because 4He is also produced during U-Th-Pb decay. Here, we show that He may be soluble in sulfide melts, such that sulfide-bearing cumulates would be enriched in both Pb and He relative to U and Th, “freezing” in He and Pb isotopes of the ambient mantle at the time of sulfide formation. This implies that ancient sulfide-bearing cumulates would be characterized by unradiogenic Pb and He isotopes (high-3He/4He). These primitive signatures are usually attributed to primordial, undifferentiated mantle, but in this case, they are the very imprint of mantle differentiation via continent formation.