Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 161, Issue 6, pp 1027–1050 | Cite as

Archaean fluid-assisted crustal cannibalism recorded by low δ18O and negative εHf(T) isotopic signatures of West Greenland granite zircon

  • Joe HiessEmail author
  • Vickie C. Bennett
  • Allen P. Nutman
  • Ian S. Williams
Original Paper


The role of fluids during Archaean intra-crustal magmatism has been investigated via integrated SHRIMP U–Pb, δ18O and LA-MC-ICPMS 176Hf isotopic zircon analysis. Six rock samples studied are all from the Nuuk region (southern West Greenland) including two ~3.69 Ga granitic and trondhjemitic gneisses, a 3.64 Ga granitic augen gneiss, a 2.82 Ga granodioritic Ikkattoq gneiss, a migmatite with late Neoarchaean neosome and a homogeneous granite of the 2.56 Ga Qôrqut Granite Complex (QGC). All zircon grains were thoroughly imaged to facilitate analysis of magmatic growth domains. Within the zircon analysed, there is no evidence for metamictization. Initial εHf zircon values (n = 63) are largely sub-chondritic, indicating the granitic host magmas were generated by the remelting of older, un-radiogenic crustal components. Zircon from some granite samples displays more than one 207Pb/206Pb age, and correlated with 176Hf/177Hf compositions can trace multiple phases of remelting or recrystallization during the Archaean. Model ages calculated using Lu/Hf arrays for each sample indicate that the crustal parental rocks to the granites, granodiorites and trondhjemites segregated from a chondrite-like reservoir at an earlier time during the Archaean, corresponding to known formation periods of more primitive tonalite–trondhjemite–granodiorite (TTG) gneisses. Zircon from the ~3.69 Ga granite, the migmatite and QGC granite contains Eoarchaean cores with chondritic 176Hf/177Hf and mantle-like δ18O compositions. The age and geochemical signatures from these inherited components are identical to those of surrounding tonalitic gneisses, further suggesting genesis of these granites by remelting of broadly tonalitic protoliths. Zircon oxygen isotopic compositions (n = 62) over nine age populations (six igneous and three inherited) have weighted mean or mean δ18O values ranging from 5.8 ± 0.6 to 3.7 ± 0.5‰. The 3.64 Ga granitic augen gneiss sample displays the highest δ18O with a mildly supra-mantle composition of 5.8 ± 0.6‰. Inherited Eoarchaean TTG-derived zircon shows mantle-like values. Igneous zircon from all other samples, spanning more than a billion years of Archaean time, record low δ18O sub-mantle compositions. These are the first low δ18O signatures reported from Archaean zircon and represent low δ18O magmas formed by the remelting and metamorphism of older crustal rocks following high-temperature hydrothermal alteration by meteoric water. Meteoric fluid ingress coupled with crustal extension, associated high heat flow and intra-crustal melting are a viable mechanism for the production of the low δ18O granites, granodiorites and trondhjemites reported here. Both high and low δ18O magmas may have been generated in extensional environments and are distinct in composition from Phanerozoic I-type granitic plutonic systems, which are typified by increasing δ18O during intra-crustal reworking. This suggests that Archaean magmatic processes studied here were subtly different from those operating on the modern Earth and involved extensional tectonic regimes and the predominance of remelting of hydrothermally altered crystalline basement.


Zircon Oxygen Hafnium Archaean Crust Granite Greenland 



We thank two anonymous reviews for helpful comments that improved the clarity of the paper. Apart from VM97/01, the samples were collected during field work funded by ANU or the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland who we thank for permission to publish data on these samples. The late Vic McGregor is acknowledged for collecting sample VM97/01. Clark Friend is acknowledged for providing samples 159352 and 159376. We thank Bud Baadsgaard for supplying zircon separates of 248251 and 248212. All analytical work was supported by the Australian Research Council grants DP0342798 and DP0342794 and was undertaken while Hiess was a PhD student at ANU supported by APA and Jaeger scholarships. We thank Shane Paxton and Jon Mya for zircon separations; Ryan Ickert and Peter Holden for contributions to SHRIMP oxygen analysis development; Malcolm McCulloch for access to the Neptune; Les Kinsley for assistance with running LA-MC-ICPMS; Steve Eggins for providing a template for Hf data reduction; Chuck McGee for technical assistance with LA-ICPMS analysis; Antti Kallio for providing LABRAT software; Yuri Amelin, Bob Rapp, Joerg Herman and Trevor Ireland for helpful discussions. We thank John Eiler, Carsten Munker and Pete Kinny for helpful reviews of an earlier version of this manuscript as a chapter in Hiess’ PhD thesis.

Supplementary material

410_2010_578_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1,500 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joe Hiess
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Vickie C. Bennett
    • 1
  • Allen P. Nutman
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ian S. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Research School of Earth SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Division of Earth and Environmental SciencesKorea Basic Science InstituteChungbukSouth Korea
  3. 3.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  4. 4.NERC Isotope Geosciences LaboratoryBritish Geological Survey KeyworthNottinghamUK

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