, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 535-552

Evolution of the Axial Geometry of the Southwest Indian Ocean Ridge between the Melville Fracture Zone and the Indian Ocean Triple Junction – Implications for Segmentation on Very Slow-Spreading Ridges

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Abstract

Geophysical data from 900 km of the Southwest Indian Ridge are used todescribe the pattern of evolution of the plate boundary between 61° Eand 70° E over the past 20 million years. The SWIR is anobliquely-opening, ultra slow-spreading axis, and east of61° E comprises a series of ridge sections, each about 100–120 kmin length. The orientation of these sections varies fromsub-orthogonal to oblique to the approximately N–S spreadingdirection. In general, the suborthogonal sections are shallower, commonlysubdivided into an array of discrete axial segments, and carry recognisablecentral magnetic anomalies. The majority of the oblique sections are single,continuous rifts without continuous axial magnetic signatures.Morphotectonics of the Southwest Indian Ridge crust have not previously beenwell constrained off-axis, and we here present sidescan sonar andswath bathymetric data up to 100 km from the ridge to demonstrate the complexities of its spatial and temporal evolution.A model is proposed that the segmentation style correlates with analong-axis variation between: (a) relatively thick crustal sections which overlie mantle sections with higher magmatic supply created in orthogonally-spreading segments and (b) those oblique sections associated with cooler, magmatically-starved mantle and thinner crust. These latter sections are formed at broad offset zones in theplate boundary, more precisely defined on faster-spreading ridges asnontransform discontinuities. The nonsystematic pattern of crustalconstruction, extensional basin formation and the absence of extension-parallel traces of discontinuities off-axis suggest that the oblique spreading sections are not fixed in space or time.