Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 163, Issue 1, pp 67–85 | Cite as

Decoding near-concordant U–Pb zircon ages spanning several hundred million years: recrystallisation, metamictisation or diffusion?

  • J. A. HalpinEmail author
  • N. R. Daczko
  • L. A. Milan
  • G. L. Clarke
Original Paper


In situ isotopic (U–Pb, Lu–Hf) and trace element analyses of zircon populations in six samples of the intrusive Mawson Charnockite, east Antarctica, emphasise complex zircon behaviour during very high-grade metamorphism. The combination of geochemical data sets is used to distinguish xenocrysts and identify a population of primary igneous zircon in situations where U–Pb data spread close to concordia over a few hundred Myr. The population is filtered to exclude grains with: (1) U–Pb ages >2% discordant, (2) anomalous trace element-content (Th, U, Y, REE) and (3) outlying Hf-isotopic values. Rare metamorphic-type grains were also excluded. Upon filtering the population, minimum emplacement ages for each sample were determined using the oldest grain(s). This approach improves upon age determinations in complex data sets that use weighted mean or isochron methods. Our results suggest that the Mawson Charnockite was emplaced episodically at c. 1145–1140 Ma, c. 1080–1050 Ma and c. 985–960 Ma. Core-outer core-rim and core-rim textures were identified but are not correlated with U–Pb ages. We establish that recrystallisation (mainly of zircon rims) must have occurred shortly following igneous crystallisation and that metamictisation/cracking is a Paleozoic to Recent event. Therefore, intra-zircon diffusion in a high-T, high-strain environment during Meso-Neoproterozoic orogenesis is inferred to have caused the extensive U–Pb isotopic disturbance. Charnockitic magmatism prior to c. 1,000 Ma has not previously been recorded in the Mawson region and indicates that orogenesis may have commenced c. 150 Myr earlier than previously thought. Correlations with similar aged rocks in adjacent regions have implications for supercontinent reconstructions.


Rayner Orogen Mawson Charnockite East Antarctica Hf-isotopes Trace elements Pb-loss Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer 



Fieldwork for this study was completed with funding from the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee (ASAC Project No. 1150). Samples were collected during the 2004/2005 (by LAM and JAH) and 1990/1991 (by Richard White) Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions. The authors thank the Australian Antarctic Division and personnel of Mawson Base for their logistic support, and M. Fitzpatrick for expert guidance in the field. M. Morffew of the Australian Antarctic Data Centre provided the map of the Mawson Coast. We are grateful to J. Payne, N. Pearson, E. Belousova and S. Piazolo (GEMOC, Macquarie University) and K. Goemann (CSL, University of Tasmania) for help with analytical work and interpretation of munted zircon. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their careful and constructive reviews, which greatly improved the paper. This is contribution 758 from the Australian Research Council National Key Centre for the Geochemical Evolution and Metallogeny of Continents ( The analytical data were obtained using instrumentation funded by DEST Systemic Infrastructure Grants, ARC LIEF, NCRIS, industry partners and Macquarie University. Macquarie University Research Development Grant (MQRDG, grant ref. 9200900498) funding provided financial support to conduct the research.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 5 (PDF 4.07 mb)


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Halpin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • N. R. Daczko
    • 2
  • L. A. Milan
    • 2
  • G. L. Clarke
    • 3
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits, University of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesGEMOC ARC National Key Centre, Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of GeosciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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