Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 161, Issue 3, pp 401–421 | Cite as

Autochthonous inheritance of zircon through Cretaceous partial melting of Carboniferous plutons: the Arthur River Complex, Fiordland, New Zealand

  • Andrew J. Tulloch
  • Trevor R. Ireland
  • David L. Kimbrough
  • William L. Griffin
  • Jahandar Ramezani
Original Paper


TIMS and SHRIMP U–Pb analyses of zircons from Milford Orthogneiss metadiorite (P = 1–1.4 GPa; T ≥ 750°C) of the Arthur River Complex of northern Fiordland reveal a bimodal age pattern. Zircons are predominantly either Paleozoic (357.0 ± 4.2 Ma) and prismatic with oscillatory zoning, or Cretaceous (133.9 ± 1.8 Ma) and ovoid with sector or patchy zoning. The younger age component is not observed overgrowing older grains. Most grains of both ages are overgrown by younger Cretaceous (~120 Ma) metamorphic zircon with very low U and Th/U (0.01). We interpret the bimodal ages as indicating initial igneous emplacement and crystallisation of a dioritic protolith pluton at ~357 Ma, followed by Early Cretaceous granulite-facies metamorphism at ~134 Ma, during which a significant fraction (~60%) of the zircon grains dissolved, and subsequently reprecipitated, effectively in situ, in partial melt pockets. The remaining ~40% of original Paleozoic grains were apparently not in contact with the partial melt, remained intact, and show only slight degrees of Pb loss. Sector zoning of the Cretaceous grains discounts their origin by solid state recrystallisation of Paleozoic grains. The alternative explanation—that the Paleozoic component represents a 40% inherited component in an Early Cretaceous transgressive dioritic magma—is considered less likely given the relatively high solubility of zircon in magma of this composition, the absence of 134 Ma overgrowths, the single discrete age of the older component, equivalent time-integrated 177Hf/176Hf compositions of both age groups, and the absence of the Cambrian-Proterozoic detrital zircon that dominates regional Cambro-Ordovician metasedimentary populations. Similar bimodal Carboniferous-Early Cretaceous age distributions are characteristic of the wider Arthur River Complex; 8 of 12 previously dated dioritic samples have a Paleozoic component averaging 51%. Furthermore, the age and chemical suite affinity of these and several more felsic rocks can be matched with those of the relatively unmetamorphosed Carboniferous plutonic terrane along the strike of the Mesozoic margin in southern Fiordland, also supporting the in situ derivation of the Carboniferous “inherited” component.


U–Pb geochronology Gabbro-diorite Inheritance Resetting Partial melting Fiordland 



We are indebted to Nick Walker for additional ID-TIMS analyses. Sam Bowring supported the ID-TIMS work at MIT. Norman Pearson helped with the acquisition of Hf-isotope data at Macquarie University. Many thanks to Ken Ludwig for his Isoplot/Ex software. This contribution has been improved by discussion with Paul Hoskin, Keith Klepeis, Geoff Clarke, Peter Blattner, Calvin Miller, Bruce Watson, Andrew Allibone, and Ian Turnbull. Geoff Clarke provided whole-rock analyses of samples dated by University of Sydney students and Keith Klepeis lodged samples dated by University of Vermont students in the PETLAB database, allowing us to undertake whole rock chemistry. Turnbull and Allibone also provided an advance summary copy of the recently completed Geological Map of Fiordland that forms the essence of Fig. 9. Nick Mortimer, Ian Turnbull, Andrew Allibone and Keith Klepeis provided helpful comments on drafts. Reviews by Steve Reddy and Damien Gagnevin helped to significantly improve the ms. Sterling technical support was provided by Belinda Smith-Lyttle, John Simes and Philip Carthew. This work was partially funded by NZ Government FRST contracts C05810, C05809 and 44010340. This is contribution 657 from the Australian Research Council National Key Centre for Geochemical Evolution and Metallogeny of Continents (

Supplementary material

410_2010_539_MOESM1_ESM.ppt (18.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPT 19126 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew J. Tulloch
    • 1
  • Trevor R. Ireland
    • 6
    • 2
  • David L. Kimbrough
    • 3
  • William L. Griffin
    • 4
  • Jahandar Ramezani
    • 5
  1. 1.GNS ScienceDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Geological and Environmental SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  4. 4.GEMOC Key CentreMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary SciencesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  6. 6.Research School of Earth SciencesThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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