Polyphase Zircon Growth during Slow Cooling from Ultrahigh Temperature: An Example from the Archean Pikwitonei Granulite Domain

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Quantifying the timescales of Archean ultrahigh temperature (UHT) metamorphism is essential for constraining the style of plate tectonics on the early Earth. However, such timescales can be difficult to quantify, due to the antiquity of Archean rocks and the extreme thermal conditions of UHT metamorphism. We constrain the timescales of Archean UHT metamorphic processes recorded by a single rock sample from the Pikwitonei granulite domain (northwestern Superior Province), through the integration of two U-Pb zircon petrochronologic techniques. In this study we combine: (1) high-spatial resolution laser ablation split-stream inductively coupled mass spectrometry (LASS) on in situ zircon (in thin section) and hand-picked zircon; and (2) high-precision isotope dilution thermal ionization mass spectrometry (ID-TIMS) analyses on microsampled fragments from the same hand-picked zircon analysed by LASS. Phase equilibria modelling and Zr-in-rutile thermometry suggest the rock followed a P-T path characterized by decompression at > 960 °C, followed by near-isobaric cooling at ∼0·8 GPa. In situ LASS zircon analyses could be interpreted to record zircon growth at broadly ∼2665 Ma, though the large uncertainties on isotopic dates make potentially distinct growth episodes difficult to distinguish. ID-TIMS U-Pb dates of zircon fragments reveal a polyphase zircon growth history over a 24 Ma duration, from 2673 to 2649 Ma. Zircon trace element compositions, textures, and microstructural relationships, as well as evaluation of zircon-garnet equilibrium, suggest zircon grew during melt crystallization, after UHT decompression and garnet resorption. Variable Ti concentrations within zircon domains indicate: (1) zircon crystallized through the temperature interval of ∼875 °C to ∼730 °C, potentially in isolated rock domains with variable zircon saturation temperature; and/or (2) zircon crystallized over a narrower temperature interval in isolated rock domains with variable aTiO2 and/or aSiO2. Collectively, the data suggest the west-central Pikwitonei granulite domain reached peak UHT conditions prior to 2673 Ma, after which suprasolidus conditions in the lower crust persisted for at least 24 Ma. Such an interpretation would be impossible if based on either the LASS or ID-TIMS zircon data alone, which highlights the utility of applying both techniques in tandem to constrain metamorphic timescales in ancient UHT terranes. © 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


Journal of Petrology
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