The Plume to Plate Transition: Hadean and Archean Crustal Evolution in the Northern Wyoming Province, U.S.A.

  • Paul A. Mueller
  • David W. Mogk
  • Darrell J. Henry
  • Joseph L. Wooden
  • David A. Foster
Part of the Modern Approaches in Solid Earth Sciences book series (MASE, volume 7)


The 2.8–4.0 Ga record of crustal evolution preserved in the northern Wyoming Province of western North America provides insight into the role of plume- and plate-regimes in the generation of Hadean and Archean continental crust, and the associated elemental depletion of the primitive mantle. The most complete record is exposed in the Beartooth Mountains (Montana-Wyoming), which lie within the Beartooth-Bighorn magmatic zone (BBMZ) sub-province of the Wyoming Province. The BBMZ (> 100,000 km2) is characterized by a single, voluminous suite of Mesoarchean (~ 2.8–2.9 Ga) TTG (tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite) plutonic and metaplutonic rocks. In the Beartooth Mountains these Mesoarchean rocks are exposed along an ~ 100 km E-W cross-section, along which they intrude greenschist grade turbidites in the west (South Snowy block) and high grade, older gneisses in the east (Beartooth Plateau block). The most complete assemblage of pre-2.8 Ga crust is preserved as enclaves within the plutonic Mesoarchean rocks of the Beartooth Plateau block. These older gneisses consist of 3.1–3.5 Ga, tectonically interleaved meta-plutonic (principally TTG and associated migmatites) and metasupracrustal lithologies (e.g., quartzites, schists, banded iron formation, and a range of paragneisses).

The arc-like elemental abundances and enriched Pb and Nd isotopic systematics of the Mesoarchean magmatic suite and the 3.1–3.5 Ga older enclaves in conjunction with Lu-Hf data from 3.3 to 4.0 Ga detrital zircons suggest a model of crustal evolution that began with a Hadean, mafic proto-continent that likely developed over a zone of mantle upwelling. Lu-Hf systematics of the 3.6 to 4.0 Ga zircons suggest substantial recycling within the proto-continent in this interval, and that this recycling involved a low Lu/Hf (~ 0.1) system. A ubiquitous component of 3.2–3.4 Ga detrital zircons with more juvenile Hf isotopic compositions occurs throughout the northern Wyoming Province and suggests a major period of crustal growth and generation of TTG-suite rocks from more depleted sources. Following a period of relative quiescence (2.8–3.1 Ga) in the BBMZ, late Mesoarchean arc magmatism (TTG, adakites, etc.) largely reconstituted the older crust during a relatively brief period between 2.79 and 2.83 Ga; it has remained essentially undisturbed since that time.

Placing this history in a global context suggests that Hadean-Eoarchean crust formed in diachronous and spatially diverse environments that were both plume-like (e.g., Pilbara, northern Wyoming Province) and subduction-like (e.g., West Greenland). The relative importance of plume-type crustal growth declined and subduction-type growth increased through time as a consequence of a progressive decline in terrestrial heat production and mantle potential temperature, with a concomitant increase in hydrous mantle melting in subduction zones.


Isotopic Composition Detrital Zircon Band Iron Formation Mantle Upwelling Felsic Gneiss 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge the financial support of the N.S.F. (EAR-8211828, 8618885, 9219645, 0538133, 0546751, and 0609948), NASA, and the U.S.G.S. Data and observations pertinent to the South Snowy block benefited from the contributions of 24 undergraduate students supported by an NSF REU site project (EAR-0851934, 0851752, and 0852025). The support and cooperation of the staff of Yellowstone National Park are also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. Mueller
    • 1
  • David W. Mogk
    • 2
  • Darrell J. Henry
    • 3
  • Joseph L. Wooden
    • 4
  • David A. Foster
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geology and GeophysicsLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Earth SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  5. 5.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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