Hf isotopes in detrital and inherited zircons of the Pilbara Craton provide no evidence for Hadean continents

Kemp, Anthony I.S., Hickman, Arthur H., Kirkland, Christopher L., and Vervoort, Jeffery D. (2015) Hf isotopes in detrital and inherited zircons of the Pilbara Craton provide no evidence for Hadean continents. Precambrian Research, 261. pp. 112-126.

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Predictions of large volumes of stabilized continental crust by the early Archaean stand in stark contrast to the actual amount of pre-3.5 Ga rocks presently exposed on Earth's surface. The Pilbara Craton of Western Australia, one of the best preserved Paleoarchean crustal blocks on Earth, is believed to have developed on a cryptic, possibly ≥3.8 Ga continental basement. If substantiated, this could support the notion of a widespread and enduring Hadean (ca. 4.5–4.0 Ga) felsic–intermediate crust. To test this, and to elucidate the earliest evolution of the Pilbara Craton, we report Hf isotope data from previously dated detrital zircon grains, and inherited zircon crystals hosted by granitic gneisses, the crystallization ages (3.80–3.55 Ga) of which substantially exceed those of the oldest exposed igneous rocks of the craton (∼3.52 Ga). The Hf isotope compositions of the ancient zircons analyzed in this study are consistent with most of the earliest components of the Pilbara Craton being extracted from near chondritic mantle between ∼3.7 and 3.6 Ga, with little or no input from significantly older crust. These new data suggest either that the Pilbara Craton developed remote from the isotopic influence of the putative Eoarchean to Hadean continental masses, or that the stabilized volumes of the earliest continents have been overestimated. The latter scenario would be consistent with the extreme scarcity of >3.9 Ga rocks and minerals, and the dominantly chondritic Hf isotope composition of the oldest continental rocks in Earth's most ancient Archaean cratons.

Item ID: 41761
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-7433
Keywords: Pilbara Craton, detrital zircon, Hf isotopes, hadean
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC FT100100059
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 13:50
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040313 Tectonics @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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