Zircons from the Acraman impact melt rock (South Australia): Shock metamorphism, U–Pb and 40Ar/39Ar systematics, and implications for the isotopic dating of impact events
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This study presents the first optical and scanning electron microscopic characterization and U–Pb SHRIMP dating results for zircon grains separated from the most likely autochthonous impact melt rock in the central domain of the large, ~40–90 km eroded Ediacaran Acraman impact structure in South Australia. Microtextural characteristics define five zircon subtypes corresponding to different levels of progressive shock metamorphism, from virtually unshocked monocrystalline zircon grains that exhibit original magmatic zoning in cathodoluminescence images to fully granular zircons that have completely lost their primary zoning pattern and locally contain neocrystallized submicrometer-sized spots of ZrO2 (probably baddeleyite) that pseudomorph pre-impact zircon. The granular zircons correspond to the highest observed level of shock metamorphism and impact-induced recrystallization. ZrO2-bearing granular zircons indicate shock pressures in excess of ~65–70 GPa, which are considerably higher than previous shock pressure estimates for the Acraman impactites. U–Pb systematics of untreated and chemically abraded melt rock zircons indicate that U–Pb ratios of the Acraman zircons were variably reset during impact. Weakly shocked crystalline grains yield ages on concordia at ~1.59–1.60 Ga reflecting the magmatic age of the Gawler Range Volcanics.Only the entirely granular zircon population was apparently impact-reset, but based on an Ediacaran age from stratigraphic constraints on the ejecta layer, experienced significant post-impact Pb loss. The microcrystalline nature of granular zircons could have promoted Pb diffusion and α-recoil in post-impact time, as suggested by grain size-dependent diffusion and recoil modeling. A positive correlation of U concentration and shock level suggests that granularization might have preferentially occurred in initially U-rich, probably metamict, zircons. 40Ar/39Ar dating of a melted Yardea Dacite clast from the Acraman melt rock, as well as K-feldspar separated from shocked Yardea Dacite, resulted in post-impact alteration plateau ages suggestive of hydrothermal events at ~500 Ma and ~450 Ma that selectively affected the impactites exposed in the central domain of the Acraman impact structure. Our study demonstrates that the Acraman impact is particularly difficult to date. In the absence of accurate and precise isotopic ages for Acraman, the Ediacaran ejecta-stratigraphic age of ~635–541 Ma is considered the most reliable age constraint currently available for the timing of the large Acraman impact.
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