A comparison of detrital U-Pb zircon, 40Ar/39Ar hornblende, 40Ar/39Ar biotite ages in marine sediments off East Antarctica: Implications for the geology of subglacial terrains and provenance studies

E. L. Pierce, S. R. Hemming, T. Williams, T. van de Flierdt, S. N. Thomson, P. W. Reiners, G. E. Gehrels, S. A. Brachfeld, S. L. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


U-Pb ages of detrital zircon grains have provided an extraordinary tool for sedimentary provenance work, given that they are ubiquitous, resistant to damage and weathering, and that the U-Pb age records the crystallization age of the mineral. Although not as widely used, 40Ar/39Ar dating of detrital hornblende and biotite grains can also serve as powerful sedimentary provenance tools, particularly in situations where chemical weathering is minor (e.g., Antarctica). Certain natural biases exist among these mineral chronometers (e.g., abundance in different rock types, durability during abrasion, resistance to dissolution) that determine the extent to which they are found in sedimentary deposits. Additionally, the 40Ar/39Ar systems in hornblende and biotite have lower closure temperatures for thermally activated diffusion (~500°C and ~300°C, respectively). Thus, for areas that have experienced a polymetamorphic history, such as East Antarctica, combining these approaches can provide added detail to provenance studies.In this study we provide a comparison of the detrital U-Pb zircon, 40Ar/39Ar hornblende and 40Ar/39Ar biotite age populations from 28 glacial-diamict and glacial-marine sediment core samples located around East Antarctica (55°W to 163°E). We present 3370 new detrital age measurements of U-Pb zircon, 40Ar/39Ar hornblende, and 40Ar/39Ar biotite, in conjunction with previously published data from some of the same core sites, as well as 78 U-Pb zircon ages measured on dispersed zircons from five ice-rafted debris (IRD) layers recovered at ODP Site 1165. Our data indicate that detrital U-Pb zircon, 40Ar/39Ar hornblende and 40Ar/39Ar biotite ages faithfully document the onshore geology of source areas within East Antarctica, as expressed in their respective age populations. In addition, a number of previously unknown age populations are recorded by the combined thermochronometers. Assuming an East Antarctic provenance, this approach helps to identify otherwise hidden geologic provinces. Previously unrecognized age populations include Archean 40Ar/39Ar hornblende and biotite ages in Dronning Maud Land; 1200-1300Ma 40Ar/39Ar hornblende ages in the Weddell Sea; ~1560Ma population of U-Pb zircons from the Wilkes Land margin; and Grenvillian (1000-1200Ma) U-Pb zircon ages from the Ade´lie/George V Land margin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-178
Number of pages23
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
StatePublished - 28 Aug 2014


  • Detrital zircon
  • Geochronology
  • Glacial diamict
  • Ice-rafted debris
  • Thermochronology


Dive into the research topics of 'A comparison of detrital U-Pb zircon, <sup>40</sup>Ar/<sup>39</sup>Ar hornblende, <sup>40</sup>Ar/<sup>39</sup>Ar biotite ages in marine sediments off East Antarctica: Implications for the geology of subglacial terrains and provenance studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this