Detrital zircon dating

The double-dating approach combined with the existing knowledge of the regional geology allows us to discriminate between magmatic cooled grains of extrusive and shallow intrusive rocks, exhumational cooled grains, and thermal reset grains.

We find that the erosion of both shallow and deep intrusive arc rocks dominate the detrital age signal, while syn-depositional extrusive grains are lacking.

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The part of the story not told, though, is that many sources of bias can creep in. How many samples must be collected to converge on a reliable date? What should the geologist do with anomalous samples?Geologists, in actual practice, do attempt to minimize error.But do they recognize all the possible sources of error? To determine the provenance of sediments, geologists are often tasked with making geological interpretations based on comparison of samples collected tens to thousands of kilometers apart, sometimes across terrane boundaries and modern or ancient ocean basins (e.g., Rainbird et al., 1992).Their title hints of troubles ahead: “Use and abuse of detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology—A case from the Río Orinoco delta, eastern Venezuela.” The Abstract warns: Advancements in mass spectrometry methods over the past two decades have allowed for rapid measurement of (U-Th)/Pb isotopes for geochronologic applications, a tool that has deeply influenced the way sediment provenance and paleo-tectonic reconstructions are approached.Geochronology-based studies of sediment provenance typically rely on dating ≈ 100–150 single detrital zircon crystals from individual samples, where the sample age distributions are used to make inferences about the parent age distributions, make qualitative geologic interpretations, and/or perform quantitative intersample comparisons.

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