We review data and recent research on arc composition, focusing on the relatively complete arc crustal sections in the Jurassic Talkeetna arc (south central Alaska) and the Cretaceous Kohistan arc (northwest Pakistan), together with seismic data on the lower crust and uppermost mantle. Whereas primitive arc lavas are dominantly basaltic, the Kohistan crust is clearly andesitic and the Talkeetna crust could be andesitic. The andesitic compositions of the two arc sections are within the range of estimates for the major element composition of continental crust. Calculated seismic sections for Kohistan and Talkeetna provide a close match for the thicker parts of the active Izu arc, suggesting that it, too, could have an andesitic bulk composition. Because andesitic crust is buoyant with respect to the underlying mantle, much of this material represents a net addition to continental crust. Production of bulk crust from a parental melt in equilibrium with mantle olivine or pyroxene requires processing of igneous crust, probably via density instabilities. Delamination of dense cumulates from the base of arc crust, foundering into less dense, underlying mantle peridotite, is likely, as supported by geochemical evidence from Talkeetna and Kohistan. Relamination of buoyant, subducting material—during sediment subduction, subduction erosion, arc-arc collision, and continental collision—is also likely.


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