There is debate to what degree mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB) can be used to infer the composition of the sub-ridge mantle and whether the upper mantle contains components that are difficult to recognize by observations on MORB alone. Here we report trace element and isotope data on a fossil mantle section exposed in the ophiolitic Lanzo South massif, Italy. Our findings show the existence of clinopyroxenes in geochemically depleted melt-infiltrated harzburgites with an extreme radiogenic Hf-isotopic composition but MORB-like Nd isotopic compositions. The simplest way of explaining the depleted trace elements in combination with the decoupled isotopic compositions is that the harzburgites were infiltrated by a melt with isotopic compositions inherited from an anciently (>1 Ga) depleted source. The existence of melts from ultra-depleted sectors of the asthenosphere allows constraining of the configuration of the heterogeneities in the sub-ridge mantle. The parallel arrays in Hf–Nd isotope composition space of different Mid-Ocean ridge segments imply the ubiquitous presence of anciently depleted residual mantle as the matrix in which more enriched components occur in pockets.
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