Magmatic history and crustal genesis of western South America: Constraints from U-Pb ages and Hf isotopes of detrital zircons in modern rivers

Martin Pepper, George Gehrels, Alex Pullen, Mauricio Ibanez-Mejia, Kevin M. Ward, Paul Kapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Western South America provides an outstanding laboratory for studies of magmatism and crustal evolution because it contains Archean-Paleoproterozoic cratons that amalgamated during Neoproterozoic supercontinent assembly, as well as a long history of Andean magmatism that records crustal growth and reworking in an accretionary orogen. We have attempted to reconstruct the growth and evolution of western South America through U-Pb geochronologic and Hf isotopic analyses of detrital zircons from 59 samples of sand mainly from modern rivers. Results from 5524 new U-Pb ages and 1199 new Hf isotope determinations are reported. Our data are integrated with previously published geochronologic and Hf isotopic information, yielding a combined record that includes >42,000 ages and >1900 Hf isotope analyses. These large data sets yield five main conclusions: (1) South America has an age distribution that is similar to most other continents, presumably reflecting processes of crustal generation and/or preservation related to the supercontinent cycle, with age maxima at 2.2-1.8 Ga, 1.6-0.9 Ga, 700-400 Ma, and 360-200 Ma; (2) <200 Ma magmatism in western South America has age maxima at ca. 183, 166, 149, 125, 110, 88, 65, 35, 21, and 4 Ma (with significant north-south and east-west variations), yielding an average cyclicity of ~33 m.y.; (3) for the past 200 m.y., no correlation exists between magmatism and the velocity of convergence between central South America and Pacific oceanic plates, the age of the downgoing plate, or the absolute motion of South America; (4) Hf isotopes record reworking of older crustal materials during most time periods, with incorporation of juvenile crust at ca. 1.6-1.0 Ga, 500-300 Ma, and ca. 175-35 Ma; and (5) the Hf isotopic signature of <200 Ma magmatism is apparently controlled by the generation of evolved crust during crustal thickening and eastward arc migration, versus juvenile magmas during extensional tectonism and westward and/or outboard migration of arc magmatism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1532-1555
Number of pages24
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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