The geochemical changes associated with the experimental serpentinization of peridotite are due to reaction with sea water and to the growth of new mineral phases. Since the rare earth elements (REE) and Sr are primarily ensconced in clinopyroxene, it is the unreactive nature of this phase in the presence of sea water that determines the REE content, the 87Sr/86Sr and 143Nd/144Nd ratio of the experimentally produced serpentinites. Serpentinites (after lherzolite and dunite) have chondrite-normalized REE abundance patterns similar to the initial peridotite indicating that the light REE (LREE) are not selectively mobilized by peridotite-sea water interaction at 300°C. However, the serpentinites produced as a result of harzburgite-sea water experiments show an increase in LREE content. Despite the sporadic behaviour of the LREE, the 143Nd/144Nd ratios in experimentally produced serpentinites (after lherzolite and harzburgite) are identical to primary clinopyroxene in the unaltered peridotite. In contrast, a marked change in the strontium isotopic composition of the peridotites occurs during experimental serpentinization due to the growth of hydrous and Ca-rich phases which facilitates the uptake of sea water Sr. Whereas harzburgite and dunite alter to produce serpentinites with high Sr contents and 87Sr/86Sr > 0.709, lherzolites tend to alter to serpentinites with 87Sr/86Sr < 0.709. This behaviour invalidates the use of Rb-Sr data in understanding the origin of oceanic and ophiolitic peridotites, but the relative immobility of the light REE (in clinopyroxene-bearing peridotites) and the low REE content of sea water encourages the careful use of the REE and neodymium isotopes as a petrogenetic indicator for elucidating the origin of serpentinized abyssal peridotites.
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