Origin and significance of Si and O isotope heterogeneities in Phanerozoic, Archean, and Hadean zircon

Dustin Trail, Patrick Boehnke, Paul S. Savage, Ming-Chang Liu, Martha Miller, Ilya Bindeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrosphere interactions and alteration of the terrestrial crust likely played a critical role in shaping Earth’s surface, and in promoting prebiotic reactions leading to life, before 4.03 Ga (the Hadean Eon). The identity of aqueously altered material strongly depends on lithospheric cycling of abundant and water-soluble elements such as Si and O. However, direct constraints that define the character of Hadean sedimentary material are absent because samples from this earliest eon are limited to detrital zircons (ZrSiO4). Here we show that concurrent measurements of Si and O isotope ratios in Phanerozoic and detrital pre-3.0 Ga zircon constrain the composition of aqueously altered precursors incorporated into their source melts. Phanerozoic zircon from (S)edimentary-type rocks contain heterogeneous δ18O and δ30Si values consistent with assimilation of metapelitic material, distinct from the isotopic character of zircon from (I)gneous- and (A)norogenic-type rocks. The δ18O values of detrital Archean zircons are heterogeneous, although yield Si isotope compositions like mantle-derived zircon. Hadean crystals yield elevated δ18O values (vs. mantle zircon) and δ30Si values span almost the entire range observed for Phanerozoic samples. Coupled Si and O isotope data represent a constraint on Hadean weathering and sedimentary input into felsic melts including remelting of amphibolites possibly of basaltic origin, and fractional addition of chemical sediments, such as cherts and/or banded iron formations (BIFs) into source melts. That such sedimentary deposits were extensive enough to change the chemical signature of intracrustal melts suggests they may have been a suitable niche for (pre)biotic chemistry as early as 4.1 Ga.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10287-10292
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
Early online date24 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2018


  • Hadean
  • Zircon
  • Weathering
  • Silica cycle
  • Origin of life


Dive into the research topics of 'Origin and significance of Si and O isotope heterogeneities in Phanerozoic, Archean, and Hadean zircon'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this