Split-grain 40Ar/39Ar dating: integrating temporal and geochemical data from crystal cargoes

B. S. Ellis, D. F. Mark, J. Troch, O. Bachmann, M. Guillong, A. J. R. Kent, A. von Quadt

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    Large sanidine crystals from the Mesa Falls Tuff (MFT), Yellowstone volcanic field, have been split and individually dated via high-precision 40Ar/39Ar geochronology with the undated portions further analysed for major elements, trace elements, Pb and Sr isotopes in the sanidine and trace elements in the melt inclusions. This allows the geochemical and geochronological identity of an individual sanidine to be combined. Our MFT sanidines return a preferred eruption age of 1.3011 ± 0.0015/0.0016 Ma (2-sigma, n = 56, MSWD 0.8, analytical/full external) with a significant component of subtly older (up to ~ 2 Ma) crystals. Combined with recent results (Rivera et al., 2016, Journal of Petrology 57, 9, 1677–1704) our data define a global mean sanidine 40Ar/39Ar age for the MFT of 1.3022 ± 0.0006/0.0008 Ma (2 sigma, analytical/full external) relative to Alder Creek sanidine at 1.1891 Ma and total λ40Ar 5.5305e-10, which gives RACsMFT: 1.09542 ± 0.00050. The ability to couple geochemistry and geochronology from a single grain allows us, for the first time, to evaluate the origin of the subtly older sanidines present in the same pumices as juvenile sanidines. Melt inclusions from all Mesa Falls sanidines represent extremely fractionated melts with low Sr contents (max. 12 ppm, n = 39), and rare earth element patterns which require that they be formed from an A-type magma rather than the preceding subduction-related Eocene volcanism as previously suggested. 87Sr/86Sr from juvenile and subtly older sanidines shows the same range of 0.7073 to 0.7096, illustrating the susceptibility of such low-Sr melts to slight degrees of assimilation. Pb isotopic compositions are more restricted and identical between the juvenile and subtly older sanidines in the Mesa Falls Tuff (207Pb/206Pb 0.900–0.903, 208Pb/206Pb 2.217–2.226, n = 83) and these compositions rule out the underlying Huckleberry Ridge Tuff member B as a potential source for the subtly older sanidine. LA-ICPMS 206Pb/238U dating of Mesa Falls zircons supports no role for the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff. Rather, these subtly older sanidines are interpreted as containing excess mantle-derived Ar. The ability to couple the geochemical and geochronological records within individual sanidine crystals that we demonstrate here has potential to provide new insights for a variety of petrological studies such as diffusional modelling.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)15-23
    JournalChemical Geology
    Early online date3 Mar 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2017


    • Ar/Ar geochronology
    • Split grain
    • Radiogenic isotopes
    • Yellowstone
    • Crystal cargo


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