Melting controls on the lutetium–hafnium evolution of Archaean crust

Nicholas J. Gardiner*, Tim E. Johnson, Christopher L. Kirkland, R. Hugh Smithies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The lutetium–hafnium (Lu–Hf) isotope record, typically measured in zircon crystals, provides a major tool for the study of crustal growth and differentiation. Interpretations of Hf isotope datasets use an evolution array defined by source 176Lu/177Hf. However, the very process that drives crustal differentiation to produce such arrays – partial melting – is precisely that which may modify the trajectory of the array due to variable degrees of anatexis allied with the differing compatibilities of Lu and Hf in residual minerals. Further, Lu/Hf estimates derived from the composition of present-day continental crust may be inappropriate for modelling Archaean crustal evolution, where different geodynamic styles and magmatic sources prevailed.

Using an approach combining phase equilibria, and trace element and isotopic modelling, we quantify the effects of partial melting of both a modern (N-MORB) and Archaean (C-F2) mafic source on melt Lu/Hf. Melting N-MORB shows that the 176Lu/177Hf of the melt, which modelling predicts to be between 0.015 and 0.022, is sensitive to the degree of melting. This difference results in a variation of 4.5 epsilon units/billion years. By contrast, anatexis of C-F2 yields melts with 176Lu/177Hf ∼0.009 that are less affected by the degree of melting. Remelting TTG yields K-rich granitic melts (TTG + G) with 176Lu/177Hf ∼0.005. Thus, a partial melting event imposes a greater control on the resulting crustal reservoir Lu/Hf than the degree of melting. Archaean continental crust has a lower Lu/Hf than that of the average mid to upper continental crust, and therefore a lower 176Lu/177Hf (here 0.005–0.009) is appropriate to modelling its Hf isotopic evolution. There has been a secular change in average crustal Lu/Hf, with the median Lu/Hf of Proterozoic and Phanerozoic magmatic rocks being higher than that of Archaean TTG + G. We show that an enriched Archaean mafic source (C-F2) with a Lu/Hf ratio of ∼0.12 may produce TTG continental crust with a 176Lu/177Hf approaching that calculated in real rocks worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-488
Number of pages10
JournalPrecambrian Research
Early online date6 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Archaean
  • Continental crust
  • Crustal evolution
  • Lu/Hf isotopes
  • Partial melting anatexis
  • TTG


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