Abstract

Impacts may have been important mechanisms of crustal redistribution and differentiation, particularly during intense postaccretionary bombardment between 4.5 Ga and 3.9 Ga ago. Evidence of crustal processes during this period is largely provided by detrital zircons from the Yilgarn craton, Australia. Trace element compositions, crystallization temperatures, and inclusion populations of these ancient zircons have been taken as evidence for predominantly granitic source magmas, implying widespread felsic continental crust on the early Earth. However, there is little knowledge of zircons formed in impact melt sheets, a potential source for the Hadean zircons. Here we present Ti thermometry, trace elements, and inclusion populations of zircons from the 1.85 Ga Sudbury impact melt sheet (Ontario, Canada). Our results demonstrate that large variations in zircon crystallization temperature and composition will be an inevitable consequence of the evolution of such magmatic systems. We also show that zircons in mafic rocks crystallize in residual liquids of granitic composition, producing inclusion assemblages that are remarkably similar to those reported for the ancient Yilgarn grains. Thus, we conclude that the trace element compositions and inclusion populations of the Hadean zircons are consistent with crystallization from more mafic melts than previously recognized, although high crystallization temperature distributions of Sudbury zircons indicate that impact melt sheets were not a dominant source for the grains older than 3.9 Ga.

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