Age and geochemical characteristics of Paleogene basalts drilled from western Taiwan: Records of initial rifting at the southeastern Eurasian continental margin

Kuo Lung Wang*, Sun Lin Chung, Yi Ming Lo, Ching Hua Lo, Huai Jen Yang, Ryuichi Shinjo, Tung Yi Lee, Jong Chang Wu, Shiuh Tsann Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The southeastern Eurasian continental margin has been characterized by formation of rift basins associated with intraplate basaltic volcanism since early Cenozoic time. In contrast to Paleogene volcanic rocks that occur sporadically in the basins, Neogene basalts are more widespread on land as lava flows and pyroclastics in the Taiwan Strait (Penghu Islands) and northwestern Taiwan. To better understand the tectonomagmatic evolution, in particular the initial rifting record, this study reports new age, major- and trace-elemental, and Sr-Nd-Pb isotope data of volcanic rocks drilled from several locations in the Taiwan Strait and western Taiwan. 40Ar/39Ar dating results show two main episodes of volcanic activities: ~56-38Ma (Eocene) and ~11-8Ma (late Miocene). The volcanic rocks are composed dominantly of basalts and basaltic andesites, and subordinately of dacites and rhyolites of Eocene age. The two episodes of basaltic volcanism have distinct geochemical characteristics. Comparatively, the Eocene basalts are more depleted in basaltic components such as Ca, Fe and Ti, but have higher Al content. They are also more enriched in large ion lithophile elements (LILE) and light rare earth elements (LREE), and show depletions in high field strength elements (HFSE). Sr-Nd-Pb isotope compositions of the late Miocene basalts are relatively more uniform and unradiogenic (εNd=+6.0 to +3.8), similar to those of Miocene basalts from NW Taiwan and Penghu Islands, and broadly coeval OIB-type basalts from the South China Sea. However, the Eocene basalts have a wider range in isotope ratios (e.g., εNd(T)=+5.6 to -3.2) pointing towards an enriched mantle source. The overall geochemical characteristics suggest two distinct mantle sources: (1) a more refractory mantle source metasomatized by subduction-related processes to generate the Eocene basalts and (2) a fertile but isotopically depleted mantle source for the late Miocene basalts. These two source components are proposed to reside in the lithospheric mantle and asthenosphere, respectively. The change in magma sources with time reflects the evolution of an extensional regime within the Eurasian continental margin from an initial rifting to a well-established stage accomplished by thinning of the lithosphere and associated upwelling of the asthenosphere. The Eocene bimodal volcanism entails a transition from the latest Cretaceous magmatism in the western Taiwan Strait that not only signals incipient rifting in the region, but also records geochemical inputs from the subducted Paleo-Pacific plate to the southeastern Eurasian lithospheric mantle. As the preexisting, subduction-related component had been preferentially overprinted by the Eocene magma generation, there was a magmatic quiescence in the Oligocene before the onset of Miocene basaltic volcanism that resulted essentially from decompression melting of the ascended asthenospheric mantle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-441
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Dec 5


  • Eurasian continental margin
  • Initial rifting
  • Magmatism
  • Paleogene
  • Taiwan Strait

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Age and geochemical characteristics of Paleogene basalts drilled from western Taiwan: Records of initial rifting at the southeastern Eurasian continental margin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this