When proterozoic crusts became thick: New insights from magma petrology

Jérôme Ganne, Xiaojun Feng, Helen McFarlane, Melina Macouin, Sonia Rousse, Séta Naba, Abraham Traoré, Florent Hodel

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4 Citations (Web of Science)


The Earth’s continental crust represents the outermost envelope of the solid Earth, controlling exchanges within the geosphere and reflecting geodynamics processes. One of the fundamental issues of Earth Science aims to determine crustal thickness in past geodynamic environments in order to discuss the evolution of certain geodynamic processes through time. Despite presenting a continuing challenge, the evolution of crustal thickness during the last 3 billion years can be investigated using indirect clues yielded by the chemical signature of mafic magmas and associated ferromagnesian minerals (pyroxene, amphibole). Here, we present a new statistical assessment of a global database of magmatic and mineral chemical information. Analysis reveals the increasing occurrence of high-temperature pyroxenes and amphiboles growing in Ca-rich, Fe-poor magma since ~1 Ga, which contrasts with lower temperature conditions of minerals crystallization throughout the Meso- and Palaeoproterozoic times. This is interpreted to reflect temporal changes in the control of Earth’s crust on mantle-derived magma composition, related to changes in lithospheric thickness and mantle secular cooling. We propose that thick existing crust is associated with deeper, hotter magmatic reservoirs, potentially elucidating the mineral chemistry and the contrasting iron content between primary and derivative mafic magmas. Based on both the chemical and mineral information of mafic magma, an integrated approach provides qualitative estimates of past crustal thickness and associated magmatic systems. Our findings indicate that the Proterozoic was characterized by thicker crustal sections (>40–50 km) relative to the Phanerozoic and Archean (<35 km). This period of crustal thickening appears at the confluence of major changes on Earth, marked by the onset of mantle cooling and Plate Tectonics and the assembly of Columbia, the first supercontinent.
Original languageEnglish
Article number428
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


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