Tectonically assisted emplacement of oceanic intraplate volcanoes: The Bathymetrists Seamounts, central Atlantic

Froukje M. Van der Zwan, Nico Augustin, Morgane Le Saout, Elisabeth Seidel, Anne C. Wölfl, Martin Schade, Danai Lampridou, Xiaojun Long, Jörg Follmann, Jakub Miluch, Janto Schönberg, Richard J. Antonio, Verena Heinath, Mehmet C. Köse, Louisa Krach, C. Dieter Garbe-Schönberg, Christian Hübscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The origin of broad intraplate volcanic provinces has been related to deep mantle plumes or shallow lithospheric processes, e.g., underlying large fault systems. One example of an understudied intraplate volcanic province is the Bathymetrists Seamounts (BSM) in the central-eastern Atlantic, an area with dense and extended fracture zones, but the BSM has been associated with a mantle plume origin. Extensive bathymetric mapping and seafloor sampling show that most BSM-seamounts resemble flat-topped guyots capped by carbonate platforms. Vesicular, volcanoclastic samples imply that their tops formed near sea level, followed by reef formation during cessation of volcanism and crustal subsidence. Erosion determines the seamount irregularity proportional to their sizes. Strong ellipticity of some seamounts is related to multiple vents that erupted along fractures. The orientation of the volcanoes, carbonate platforms, and morphological lineaments of the BSM show particular trends that reveal information on their origin and formation mechanisms. Geomorphological analyses indicate a structural control on volcano emplacement related to underlying lithospheric faults resembling a Riedel shear pattern. The stress field corresponding to their orientations is related to a NE-SW tensional setting, fitting to the prevalent tectonic setting ~56–38 Ma years ago that coincides with the BSM formation and an increase in spreading rates. A change in movement of the African plate during this time, together with the reactivation of fracture zones of the strongly sheared equatorial Atlantic, created pathways in the lithosphere and possibly enhanced magmatism. The seamounts do not show distinct differences in erosion state, morphology, carbonate platform depth, or Mn-crust thickness, in contrast to what would be expected for an age progression within the seamount chain. Our observations, therefore, do not support a plume mantle source. While the magmatic source remains undefined, we show that tectonic pathways determined the shape of the seamounts and enabled the broad emplacement of the Bathymetrists seamount chain.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108891
StatePublished - Sep 29 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-10-06
Acknowledgements: We thank the captains and crews for their support during expeditions MSM70 and M152/2, as well as the German Research Fleet Coordination Center for organization of the cruises. Both expeditions were funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG). This manuscript is an outcome of the GEOMAR MuHS-V writing retreat in Kappeln, Germany, 27.02. – 03.03.2023. We thank Zhongyuan Chen and Ziyin Wu for editorial handling and two anonymous reviewers for providing constructive feedback that improved the manuscript.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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