Belts of Cordilleran arc plutons in the eastern part of the Mojave crustal province, inboard from the southwestern North American plate boundary, record major magmatic pulses at ca. 180–160 and 75 Ma and smaller pulses at ca. 100 and 20 Ma. This cyclic magmatism likely reflects evolving plate-margin processes. Zircon Lu-Hf isotopic characteristics and inherited zircons for different-age plutons may relate magma sources to evolving tectonics. Sources similar in age to the bulk of the exposed Mojave crust (1.6–1.8 Ga) dominated the magmas. Rare zircons having εHf(t) values as low as −52 indicate that Cretaceous melt sources also included more ancient crustal components, such as Archean-derived detritus in supracrustal gneisses of the Vishnu basin. Some rocks signal contributions from mantle lithosphere (in the Miocene) or asthenosphere (middle Cretaceous).
Temporal shifts in isotopic pattern in this sample of the Cordillera relate to cyclic pulses of magmatic flux. Hf-isotopic pull-downs suggestive of dominantly crustal sources characterize the Jurassic and Late Cretaceous flare-ups. The Late Cretaceous flare-up, occurring near the onset of flat- slab subduction, produced abundant Proterozoic xenocrystic zircon and Hf isotopes implicating derivation largely from heterogeneous deep Mojave crust. Isotopic pull-ups characterize the lower-flux middle Cretaceous and Miocene magmatic episodes. The middle Cretaceous pulse ca. 105–95 Ma produced Mojave crust signals but also the isotopically most juvenile magmatic zircons, ranging upward to barely positive εHf values and suspected to signal an asthenosphere contribution. This may point toward transtension or slab retreat causing 105–95 Ma backarc extension in the Mojave hinterland of the Cordillera. That possibility of backarc extension raises questions about the tectonic environment of the contemporaneous main Sierra Nevada high-flux arc closer to the continental margin.