More than 1800 detrital zircon uranium-lead (U-Pb) ages collected from Franklinian Basin sedimentary strata of the Canadian Arctic Islands provide important insights into the depositional and tectonic evolution of the northern margin of Laurentia from the late Neoproterozoic to the Late Devonian. The Franklinian Basin succession is composed of strata with three distinctly different U-Pb age provenance signatures, which have implications for the tectonic and paleogeographic evolution of the entire Arctic region. Neoproterozoic and Lower Cambrian formations contain detrital zircon populations of 1750–1950 Ma and 2650–2800 Ma, which are consistent with derivation from Archean to Paleoproterozoic gneisses and granites of the west Greenland–northeast Canadian Shield. The Lower Silurian to Lower Devonian Danish River Formation contains a dominant population of 900–2150 Ma detrital zircons with scattered Archean ages. The 900–2150 Ma zircons were likely transported axially along the foreland basin of the East Greenland Caledonides (Caledonian orogen) and deposited in a deep-water basin between the Pearya terrane and northern Laurentian margin. Middle Devonian to Upper Devonian strata contain detrital zircon populations of 900–2150 Ma, similar to the Danish River Formation, but these units also contain 370–450 Ma and 500–700 Ma detrital zircons. The 900–2150 Ma zircons were likely derived from the East Greenland Caledonian Mountains, the uplifted foreland of the East Greenland Caledonides, and the Pearya terrane. The population of 370–450 Ma detrital zircons potentially comes from uplifting granites in the Caledonian Mountains and Pearya terrane. The 500–700 Ma detrital zircons were likely derived from the continental landmass responsible for the Ellesmerian orogen. The 500–700 Ma age of the zircons suggests that the northern landmass likely had a connection to rocks of the Timanide orogens, located in the Timan Range of northwestern Russia. A dominant population of 365–450 Ma and 500–700 Ma ages in Upper Devonian strata suggests that the Pearya terrane and the northern continental landmass became the dominant source by the end of Franklinian Basin sedimentation.
Because detrital zircons are often recycled from older strata into younger deposits, these data provide the basis for understanding the sedimentary provenance of younger units of the Sverdrup Basin and sedimentary wedges along the present Arctic continental margin.