Back to article

Figures and tables

Temporal variation in relative zircon abundance throughout Earth history

C.B. Keller1,2,3,

1Berkeley Geochronology Center, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA
2Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
3Department of Geosciences, Guyot Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1042, USA

P. Boehnke4,5,

4Chicago Center for Cosmochemistry, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
5Department of the Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

B. Schoene3

3Department of Geosciences, Guyot Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1042, USA

Affiliations  |  Corresponding Author  |  Cite as  |  Funding information

Keller, C.B., Boehnke, P., Schoene, B. (2017) Temporal variation in relative zircon abundance throughout Earth history. Geochem. Persp. Let. 3, 179–189.

C.B.K was supported in part by the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship Program of the Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy under contract DE-FG02-97ER2530.

Geochemical Perspectives Letters v3, n2  |  doi: 10.7185/geochemlet.1721
Received 8 November 2016  |  Accepted 20 March 2017  |  Published 20 April 2017




Figure 1 (a) Average zirconium and M value throughout the preserved rock record for continental igneous rocks with 40–80 % SiO2. (b) Calculated average zircon concentration (micrograms of zircon per gram of whole rock) as a function of time, under a range of possible crystallisation conditions. (c) Zircon saturation distributions during magma crystallisation as a function of percent melt for varying silica ranges, calculated at 6 kilobar and 3 wt. % H2O. Relative zircon abundance is reported as micrograms of zircon saturated per gram of magma per percentage-point decrease in residual melt fraction. All uncertainties are two standard error of the mean.
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint


Figure 2 (a) Temporal variability in the distribution of zircon between igneous rocks of different silica contents, calculated at 6 kilobar and 3 wt. % H2O. (a) Temporal variation in relative zircon abundance as a function of silica. (b) Line of silica equivalence between Archean and Phanerozoic samples (the silica contents required to saturate the same mass of zircon in Archean and Phanerozoic magmas). (c) The mass of zircon saturated per mass of mafic magma (43–53 % SiO2) relative to that saturated in an equivalent mass of coeval felsic magma (63–73 % SiO2). The likelihood of saturating zircon in mafic lithologies was dramatically lower (by a factor of nearly 5) in the earliest Archean than it is today. All uncertainties are two standard error of the mean.
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint


Figure 3 (a) The effect of applying a relative zircon abundance correction (normalising to constant magma zircon productivity) to the detrital zircon age spectrum of Voice et al. (2011)

Voice, P.J., Kowalewski, M., Eriksson, K.A. (2011) Quantifying the Timing and Rate of Crustal Evolution: Global Compilation of Radiometrically Dated Detrital Zircon Grains. The Journal of Geology 119, 109–126.

for varying crystallisation conditions. (b) The average mass of magma throughout Earth history required to produce the same mass of zircon as a unit mass of average present-day magma.
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint



Back to article

Supplementary Figures and Tables


Figure S-1 Zirconium evolution and the point of zircon saturation during a crystallisation simulation for a single whole rock composition, in this case a basaltic andesite composition. Zirconium concentration in the melt increases during differentiation as a generally incompatible element, while both temperature and M-value decrease with increasing crystallinity, decreasing the zirconium concentration required to saturate zircon.
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint


Figure S-2 The relationship between bulk zircon saturation temperatures, corrected zircon saturation temperatures, and average zircon crystallisation temperatures during closed system equilibrium crystallisation for 52,300 whole rock compositions. Bulk saturation temperature is the result of applying the equation of Boehnke et al. (2013) directly to each whole rock composition. (a) Corrected zircon saturation temperature adjusts for differentiation during in situ crystallisation, resulting in consistently higher saturation temperatures relative to bulk saturation temperature, as observed in panel. For samples that do not ever saturate zircon, the highest saturation temperature of any differentiated melt is reported. (b) For samples which do saturate zircon, average zircon crystallisation temperature is the weighted average of the zircon crystallisation temperature distribution, resulting in temperatures closely correlated with, but necessarily colder than, the adjusted zircon saturation temperature. While not highly sensitive to pressure or water content, the values shown here are calculated for shallow, water saturated conditions (2 kbar and 4 wt. % H2O).
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint


Figure S-3 Zirconium partitioning. (a) Zirconium mineral/melt partition coefficients for several minerals with non-negligible zirconium compatibility. Partition coefficients shown are averages of GERM partition coefficient data fit as a function of melt SiO2. Uncertainties are omitted for visibility. (b) The proportion of the total zirconium budget partitioned into the solid at equilibrium as a function of remaining melt percent and mineral/melt partition coefficient.
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint


Figure S-4 A selection of possible crustal growth curves with varying initial boundary conditions (no crust, 5, 10, and 20 km thick primordial anorthosite floatation crust) and functional form of the recycling term (none, linear, and exponential with 0.7 or 1.4 Gyr e-folding time 1/λ). Exponential recycling rates are considered based on the possibility that crustal recycling rate may have been faster in the past as a direct and indirect result of higher mantle potential temperature.
Back to article | Download in Powerpoint