Mantle evolution of southern Patagonia

Petrologists are unraveling the evolution of mantle rocks in southern Patagonia to learn more about the continental separation of South America and Antarctica.

The geochemistry of subcontinental lithospheric mantle beneath Patagonia reflects the complex mantle evolution that occurred beneath Gondwana, an ancient supercontinent.

Our scientists are studying Patagonian mantle rocks to learn more about the break-up of Gondwana, in particular the separation of South America and Antarctica during the Late Mesozoic to Early Cenozoic orogeny. 

This project focuses on the extensive and extremely valuable Museum collection of mantle xenoliths from Pali-Aike, Patagonia.

Search the mineralogy collection database

Project staff

Dr Chiara Petrone
The Natural History Museum

Dr Sally Gibson
University of Cambridge

Eve Rooks
NERC PhD student
University of Cambridge/The Natural History Museum

Glossary

Sub-continental lithospheric mantle
Shallow mantle rocks that lie beneath continental tectonic plates.

Gondwana
One of two supercontinents that formed when the Pangaean supercontinent split up around 180 million years ago. Gondwana included the landmasses that we now know as Antarctica, South America, Africa and Australia.

Orogeny
Large structural deformation of Earth's crust. The primary mechanism of mountain-building on continents.

Mantle xenolith
A fragment of rock from a depth of up to 50km, brought to Earth's surface through volcanism.