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Using the ion microprobe SHRIMP we have analysed zircons from the Ben Vuirich, Glen Kyllachy, Inchbae and Vagastie Bridge granites from the Scottish Caledonides, in an attempt to resolve the ages of inherited zircons shown to be present in these granites by previous conventional multigrain analyses. Middle Proterozoic age components were found in inherited zircons from all four granites. Late Proterozoic (900–1,100 Ma) components have been identified in zircons from the Glen Kyllachy and Ben Vuirich granites in the Grampian Highlands. A Late Archaean age has only been detected in one zircon from the Glen Kyllachy granite. The distribution of inherited components in the granite zircon populations could reflect fundamental divisions in the age composition of granite source rocks; however, detailed assessment of this possibility must await further ion microprobe analyses on zircons from many more granites.

SHRIMP isotopic and U, Th and Pb analyses were made on successive shells of zoned zircon surrounding inherited cores from the Glen Kyllachy granite to monitor chemical changes during magmatic zircon growth. Results show that zircon shells have characteristic but significantly different Th, U and Pb concentrations. Magmatic zircon from the Vagastie Bridge granite also forms as clearly defined oscillatory zoned shells around unzoned nuclei of inherited zircon. However, the distinction between magmatic and inherited zircon in zircons from the Inchbae granite is less clear. Zircons from the Ben Vuirich granite occur as euhedral, magmatic zircons, or as rounded, subhedral, inherited zircon grains. A SHRIMP age of 597±11 (2σ) Ma for euhedral magmatic zircon from this granite is identical, within the uncertainty, to the conventional multigrain zircon age of 590± 2 (2σ) Ma reported by Rogers et al. (1989) and confirms the conclusions of those authors that sedimentation of the Dalradian sequence took place in the Precambrian.

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