Zircons in transport in the modern Amazon River range from coarse silt to medium sand. Older grains are smaller on average: Mesozoic and Cenozoic grains have average equivalent spherical diameter (ESD) 122 ± 42 μm (lower fine sand), whereas grains >2000 Ma have average ESD 67 ± 14 μm (upper coarse silt). As a full Wentworth size class separates the two values, zircons in these age populations are hydraulically distinct.
Host sand size is correlated with average size of co-transported zircons, implying hydrodynamic fractionation. Zircon size is positively correlated with percent medium sand, and inversely correlated with percent very fine sand (p <0.0001 in both cases). In samples with >50% medium sand, average zircon size is 100 μm, compared with 80 μm in samples with >50% very fine sand. We infer from these data that zircon deposition is not size-blind, and that zircons track with hydraulically comparable sand grains. As different aged grains tend to have different characteristic sizes, this indicates the possibility of hydrodynamic fractionation of age populations.
Five samples representing different hydrodynamic microenvironments of a single dune present significantly different detrital zircon age spectra, apparently the result of hydraulic processes. Peak mismatch (age peaks failing to overlap at 2σ level) is the most common disparity; but age populations present in some samples are missing from other samples. The lack of correspondence among the samples appears to exceed that attributable to random sampling. We conclude that hydrodynamic fractionation of zircons and zircon-age populations does occur. Zircon size should therefore be taken into consideration in detrital zircon provenance analysis.