U-Pb isotopic data obtained by laser ablation ICPMS analysis of nine zircons with centre to margin oscillatory growth zones from a K-feldspar-rich augen gneiss in the allochthonous Lower Crystalline Nappe of the Erzgebirge domain of the western part of the Bohemian Massif yield a concordia age of 524 ± 10 Ma (2 sigma). This Early Cambrian age represents the time of magmatic crystallization of the protolith of a representative, from near Měděnec, of the allochthonous “Red gneiss” whose igneous nature is shown by the presence of (deformed) xenoliths. Data from TIMS analysis of zircons with variable proportions of unzoned xenocrystic cores surrounded by oscillatory-zoned overgrowths point to magma derivation from upper Proterozoic, or older, rocks. Data obtained for five zircon grains from another “Red gneiss” in the Lower Crystalline Nappe (in the Klinovec anticline) plot below the concordia with the age of the one point that is near concordant being 519 ± 26 Ma (2 sigma). These data, together with internal features of the zircons, are consistent with Early Cambrian granitic plutonism also in this part of the Erzgebirge but with later Pb loss, possibly associated with considerable fluid movement during thrust nappe development. Another sample of a coarse-grained orthogneiss from the autochthonous St Catherine's dome yielded a significantly younger Early Ordovician age of 480 ± 10 Ma (2 sigma) calculated from eight zircon analyses. However, three zircon grains from the same sample gave a significantly older near-concordant Late Proterozoic age of ca. 620 Ma.

Provided that the age difference of ca. 40 Ma between orthogneisses from Měděnec - Klínovec and St Catherine's dome holds also for other orthogneisses in the Erzgebirge, zircon U-Pb age data could be used to discriminate between allochthonous and autochthonous units in this region.

The ca. 25 Ma difference between the Early Cambrian protolith age of the augen gneiss from near Měděnec determined by the laser ablation ICPMS technique and a previously reported older age of 550 ± 9 Ma for a nearby sample determined by the Pb-Pb evaporation technique is accounted for on the basis of the latter not being adequate for dating zircons with a small xenocrystic component. This study demonstrates the importance of high spatial resolution dating techniques, such as SHRIMP or laser ablation ICPMS, in dating zircons with complex growth history that are common in crustally-derived melts.

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