Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology and Hf isotope geochemistry of Paleozoic and Triassic passive margin strata of western North America

George Gehrels, Mark Pecha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


U-Pb geochronologic and Hf isotopic analy ses have been conducted on detrital zircons extracted from 36 samples of Neoproterozoic through Triassic passive margin strata from western North America. The data serve as an improved reference for comparison with inboard strata that accumulated on the North American craton and outboard strata belonging to potentially displaced Cordilleran terranes. As expected, this reference documents significant variations in ages and Hf isotope compositions both north-south and also through time. The data also provide insights into the provenance of Cordilleran passive margin strata. During Neoproterozoic, Cambrian, and Early-Middle Devonian time, most grains were shed from relatively local basement rocks and from Meso proterozoic clastic strata containing 1.2-1.0 Ga grains that originated in the Grenville orogen. This pattern was interrupted during Ordovician time, when much of the Cordilleran margin was blanketed by detritus shed from the northern Canadian Shield. Beginning in Late Devonian time, and continuing through late Paleozoic and Triassic time, most regions were dominated by locally derived detritus (largely recycled from underlying strata), but also received 0.7-0.4 Ga grains that were shed from the Franklinian, Caledonian, Appalachian, and Ouachita-Marathon orogens. This pattern is complicated in southern transects as a result of mid-Paleozoic emplacement of off-shelf assemblages onto the continental margin (e.g., Antler orogeny) and construction of Permo-Triassic magmatic arcs along the margin. Our data also provide a robust record of the crustal evolution of western North America, with significant production of juvenile crust during late Archean (3.0- 2.5 Ga) and Paleoproterozoic (1.78-1.6 Ga) time and phases of mainly crustal reworking at 2.0-1.78, 1.5-1.3, 1.2-1.0, and 0.6-0.2 Ga. This history is somewhat different from that of other continents, with western Laurentia comprising a greater overall proportion of juvenile crust, punctuated by greater degrees of crustal reworking between 2.2 and 1.78 Ga and 0.3-0.2 Ga.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-65
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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