Sedimentary mineral assemblages commonly contain detrital zircon crystals as part of the heavy-mineral fraction. Age spectra determined by U-Pb isotopic analysis of single zircon crystals within a sample may directly image the age composition—but not the chemical composition—of the source region. Rare earth element (REE) abundances have been measured for zircons from a range of common crustal igneous rock types from different tectonic environments, as well as kimberlite, carbonatite, and high-grade metamorphic rocks, to assess the potential of using zircon REE characteristics to infer the rock types present in sediment source regions. Except for zircon with probable mantle affinities, zircon REE abundances and normalized patterns show little intersample and intrasample variation. To evaluate the actual variation in detrital zircon REE composition in a true sediment of known mixed provenance, zircons from a sandstone sample from the Statfjord Formation (North Sea) were analyzed. Despite a provenance including high-grade metasediment and granitoids and a range in zircon age of 2.82 b.y., the zircon REEs exhibit a narrow abundance range with no systematic differences in pattern shape. These evidences show zircon REE patterns and abundances are generally not useful as indicators of provenance.

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