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Hotspot volcanism in the southern South Atlantic: Geophysical constraints on the evolution of the southern Walvis Ridge and the Discovery Seamounts ()

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The southern Atlantic hosts a variety of magmatic structures, namely the Walvis Ridge, the Discovery Seamounts and the Shona Ridge, which are believed to be related to the evolution/movement of hotspots. Although the basement of the Walvis Ridge has been sampled at different locations, geophysical data are too sparse to provide sufficient information about its deeper structure to compare it with other hotspot tracks. The Discovery Seamounts represent a completely different type feature in a way that it cannot be connected to any onshore volcanic feature. However, geological sampling of the volcanic basement indicates that the petrology of the Discovery track is very similar to Gough Island and the southern branch of Walvis Ridge. Both structures erupted into already existing seafloor and so have been seismically investigated to document how/if an associated thermal anomaly might modified the underlying and surrounding oceanic crust. Seismic lines for both structures indicate rather normal seismic velocity distributions for oceanic crust. Both, the Walvis Ridge and the largest volcano of the Discovery Seamounts have a maximum thickness in our research area of ~13 km. An interesting difference between these structures is a high velocity cone (> 6 km/s) at 2.4 km depth in the central part of Discovery Seamount. This might indicate a primarily intrusional type of seamount such as has been reported for several similar structures. In contrast the Walvis Ridge velocity structure does not show evidences for a shallow intrusional cone, but seismic velocities typical for oceanic layer 3 at a more or less constant depth level along the entire profile. This might indicate that the ridge’s present-day topography is built mainly by extrusive material.

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