Mantle plumes upwelling beneath moving tectonic plates generate age-progressive chains of volcanos (hotspot chains) used to reconstruct plate motion. However, these hotspots appear to move relative to each other, implying that plumes are not laterally fixed. The lack of age constraints on long-lived, coeval hotspot chains hinders attempts to reconstruct plate motion and quantify relative plume motions. Here we provide 40Ar/39Ar ages for a newly identified long-lived mantle plume, which formed the Rurutu hotspot chain. By comparing the inter-hotspot distances between three Pacific hotspots, we show that Hawaii is unique in its strong, rapid southward motion from 60 to 50 Myrs ago, consistent with paleomagnetic observations. Conversely, the Rurutu and Louisville chains show little motion. Current geodynamic plume motion models can reproduce the first-order motions for these plumes, but only when each plume is rooted in the lowermost mantle.
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