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Volcanic seamount chains on the flanks of mid-ocean ridges record variability in magmatic processes associated with mantle melting over several millions of years. However, the relative timing of magmatism on individual seamounts along a chain can be difficult to estimate without in situ sampling and is further hampered by Ar40/Ar39 dating limitations. The 8°20’N seamount chain extends ∼170 km west from the fast-spreading East Pacific Rise (EPR), north of and parallel to the western Siqueiros fracture zone. Here, we use multibeam bathymetric data to investigate relationships between abyssal hill formation and seamount volcanism, transform fault slip, and tectonic rotation. Near-bottom compressed high-intensity radiated pulse, bathymetric, and sidescan sonar data collected with the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry are used to test the hypothesis that seamount volcanism is age-progressive along the seamount chain. Although sediment on seamount flanks is likely to be reworked by gravitational mass-wasting and current activity, bathymetric relief and Sentry vehicle heading analysis suggest that sedimentary accumulations on seamount summits are likely to be relatively pristine. Sediment thickness on the seamounts' summits does not increase linearly with nominal crustal age, as would be predicted if seamounts were constructed proximal to the EPR axis and then aged as the lithosphere cooled and subsided away from the ridge. The thickest sediments are found at the center of the chain, implying the most ancient volcanism there, rather than on seamounts furthest from the EPR. The nonlinear sediment thickness along the 8°20’N seamounts suggests that volcanism can persist off-axis for several million years.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.