Abstract

Avalonia in the northern Appalachian orogen is generally assumed to have originated near the margin of Gondwana, although its position along that extensive margin and the timing of its separation remain disputed. U–Pb ages determined by laser ablation – inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry are reported here for detrital zircon from Avalonian clastic sedimentary units, three in southern New Brunswick, and one in southeastern Cape Breton Island, with depositional ages ranging from ca. 630 to ca. 505 Ma. Considered in combination with previously published detrital data sets from two other samples from southern New Brunswick deposited in a similar age range, the samples show a wide spectrum of ages from Ediacaran to Neoarchean (as old as 3.2 Ga). The dominant zircon populations in all six samples are Ediacaran–Cryogenian with ages between 770 and 540 Ma and can be matched with known magmatic events in Avalonia. Pre-Avalonian cycle detrital zircon dates in the samples are relatively sparse and do not reveal a consistent signature that might be used to place Avalonia in a unique paleogeographic position, although they are compatible with Amazonian provenance. An increase in ca. 2.2–1.9 Ga zircon dates in Early Cambrian through Early Ordovician samples suggests that sources for zircon of those ages became available in Avalonia by the end of the Ediacaran, possibly by motion of Avalonia to a different part of the Amazonian margin or to the West African craton.

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