Zircon petrochronology reveals the timescale and mechanism of anatectic magma formation

Farina, Federico; Dini, Andrea; Davies, Joshua H.F.L.; Ovtcharova, Maria; Greber, Nicolas; Bouvier, Anne-Sophie; Baumgartner, Lukas; Ulianov, Alexey; Schaltegger, Urs (2018). Zircon petrochronology reveals the timescale and mechanism of anatectic magma formation. Earth and planetary science letters, 495, pp. 213-223. Elsevier 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.05.021

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Igneous rocks of intermediate to acidic composition commonly exhibit considerable degrees of isotope variability preserved at the crystal and sub-crystal scale, as well as a significant U–Pb age range, reflecting protracted timescales of zircon crystallization and long magma residence times. The association of high-precision U–Pb zircon dates with stable and radiogenic isotope data represents a powerful tool to unravel the petrological evolution of granitic rocks, hence allowing a better understanding of the processes that led to the formation and reworking of the continental crust.

In this case study, we combine high-precision U–Pb dates with stable and radiogenic isotope data from zircon crystals in the Larderello–Travale (Italy) shallow-level granites. These rocks are peraluminous two-mica, cordierite-bearing granites and represent pure crustal anatectic magmas, generated in a post-collisional extensional setting. As such, they are ideal candidates to investigate the timing, rates and mechanisms of melt production during anatectic magma formation, giving insights into the process of intracrustal differentiation. Magmatic zircon crystals from the Larderello–Travale granites contain
O values ranging from 8.6 to 13.5‰ and crystals from individual samples exhibit inter- and intra-grain oxygen isotope variability exceeding 3‰. The analysed crystals have εHf values ranging between −7.4 and −12.4, with moderate, intra-sample εHf isotope variability. All CA-ID-TIMS (chemical abration isotope-dilution thermal ionization mass spectrometry) 206Pb/238U zircon ages range from 4.5 to 1.6 Ma and suggest four pulses of magmatic activity at ∼3.6, 3.2, 2.7 and 1.6 Ma. More importantly, zircon crystals from individual samples typically exhibit an age spread as large as 300–500 ka. This age dispersion suggests that most of the zircon did not crystallize at the emplacement level but in the middle crust and were subsequently recycled and juxtaposed during ascent and emplaced at shallow level. When plotted against age, stable and radiogenic isotope data suggest the co-existence of multiple and isotopically distinct magma batches produced by partial melting of different crustal domains. This requires coeval magma batches that are physically separated and evolve independently for hundreds of thousands of years before coalescing during ascent and emplacement. The involvement of multiple sources in the production of crustal anatectic magmas reflects the inherent heterogeneous nature of the continental crust and result from the interplay between the rise and evolution of the geotherms through the crust and the composition of the fertile source rocks. Finally, the isotopically diverse zircon-bearing magma batches mixed and assembled into shallow-level intrusions generated during the four major magma pulses.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Greber, Nicolas


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








Nicolas Greber

Date Deposited:

15 Aug 2019 11:34

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:29

Publisher DOI:






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