Original Paper

Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, 158:757

First online:

On the occurrence, trace element geochemistry, and crystallization history of zircon from in situ ocean lithosphere

  • Craig B. GrimesAffiliated withDepartment of Geology and Geophysics, University of WyomingDepartment of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin Email author 
  • , Barbara E. JohnAffiliated withDepartment of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming
  • , Michael J. CheadleAffiliated withDepartment of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming
  • , Frank K. MazdabAffiliated withU.S.G.S.-Stanford Ion Microprobe Laboratory
  • , Joseph L. WoodenAffiliated withU.S.G.S.-Stanford Ion Microprobe Laboratory
  • , Susan SwappAffiliated withDepartment of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming
  • , Joshua J. SchwartzAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, University of Alabama

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We characterize the textural and geochemical features of ocean crustal zircon recovered from plagiogranite, evolved gabbro, and metamorphosed ultramafic host-rocks collected along present-day slow and ultraslow spreading mid-ocean ridges (MORs). The geochemistry of 267 zircon grains was measured by sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe-reverse geometry at the USGS-Stanford Ion Microprobe facility. Three types of zircon are recognized based on texture and geochemistry. Most ocean crustal zircons resemble young magmatic zircon from other crustal settings, occurring as pristine, colorless euhedral (Type 1) or subhedral to anhedral (Type 2) grains. In these grains, Hf and most trace elements vary systematically with Ti, typically becoming enriched with falling Ti-in-zircon temperature. Ti-in-zircon temperatures range from 1,040 to 660°C (corrected for a TiO2 ≈ 0.7, a SiO2 ≈ 1.0, pressure ≈ 2 kbar); intra-sample variation is typically ~60–150°C. Decreasing Ti correlates with enrichment in Hf to ~2 wt%, while additional Hf-enrichment occurs at relatively constant temperature. Trends between Ti and U, Y, REE, and Eu/Eu* exhibit a similar inflection, which may denote the onset of eutectic crystallization; the inflection is well-defined by zircons from plagiogranite and implies solidus temperatures of ~680–740°C. A third type of zircon is defined as being porous and colored with chaotic CL zoning, and occurs in ~25% of rock samples studied. These features, along with high measured La, Cl, S, Ca, and Fe, and low (Sm/La)N ratios are suggestive of interaction with aqueous fluids. Non-porous, luminescent CL overgrowth rims on porous grains record uniform temperatures averaging 615 ± 26°C (2SD, n = 7), implying zircon formation below the wet-granite solidus and under water-saturated conditions. Zircon geochemistry reflects, in part, source region; elevated HREE coupled with low U concentrations allow effective discrimination of ~80% of zircon formed at modern MORs from zircon in continental crust. The geochemistry and textural observations reported here serve as an important database for comparison with detrital, xenocrystic, and metamorphosed mafic rock-hosted zircon populations to evaluate provenance.