Serpentinization of ultramafic rocks during hydrothermal alteration at mid-ocean ridges profoundly changes the physical, chemical, rheological, and magnetic properties of the oceanic lithosphere. There is renewed interest in this process following the discovery of widespread exposures of serpentinized mantle on the seafloor in slow spreading oceans. Unroofing of mantle rocks in these settings is achieved by displacement along oceanic detachment faults, which eventually results in structures known as oceanic core complexes (OCCs). However, we have limited understanding of the mechanisms of serpentinization at the seafloor and in particular their relationship with the evolution of OCCs. Since magnetite is a direct product of serpentinization, the magnetic properties of variably serpentinized peridotites can provide unique insights into these mechanisms and their evolution in the oceanic lithosphere. Here we present new results from an integrated, rock magnetic, paleomagnetic, and petrological study of variably serpentinized peridotites from the first fossil OCC recognized in an ophiolite. Integration with existing data from mid-ocean ridge-related abyssal peridotites recovered from several scientific ocean drilling sites yields the first magnetic database from peridotites extending across the complete range (0–100%) of degrees of serpentinization. Variations in a range of magnetic parameters with serpentinization, and associated paleomagnetic data, provide: (i) key constraints on the mechanism(s) of serpentinization at mid-ocean ridges; (ii) insights on the potential for serpentinized peridotites to contribute to marine magnetic anomalies; and (iii) evidence that leads to a new conceptual model for the evolution of serpentinization and related remanence acquisition at OCCs
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