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Detrital zircons from the Nome Complex, a metamorphic terrane in northern Alaska, reveal important constraints on the early Paleozoic history of the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka terrane, a microcontinental block with an origin exotic to Laurentia.

Twenty-two samples (17 in this study, five previously published) produce three detrital zircon population patterns (called themes), indicating that at least three distinguishable source areas contributed to the metamorphic protolith. Detrital zircon populations from metamorphosed rift-related mafic volcaniclastic rocks, a lithologic subunit of the Nome Complex, contain a dominant population of 740–550 Ma zircons. Samples from three other lithologic units yielded populations dominated by early Paleozoic zircons and characterized by a large population of 450–420 Ma zircons. A few samples, taken from two different lithologic units, yielded populations dominated by Mesoproterozoic zircons (most around 1.25–0.9 Ga) and lacked zircons younger than 900 Ma. None of the 22 samples contained more than a few Archean zircons.

The ages of the youngest detrital zircon populations indicate that little of the protolith for the Nome Complex can be as old as Proterozoic, as previously thought. Further, a significant part of the protolith sequence is Devonian or younger; these rocks are likely correlative with Devonian or Mississippian units in the Brooks Range, specifically marine parts of the Endicott or Lisburne Groups.

Based on detrital zircon data, limiting factors can be placed on the paleogeographic history of the Nome Complex and associated parts of the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka terrane: (1) 740–550 Ma zircons were deposited in a rift-related basin formed on a continental margin in the early Paleozoic; at least some of those zircons may have been sourced from local basement; (2) a transition to new sediment sources is reflected in Devonian or younger protoliths with the appearance of 450–420 Ma and 1.25–0.9 Ga detrital zircons; and (3) 450–420 Ma and 1.25–0.9 Ga zircons may have been supplied from sources outside the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka terrane.

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