Complex 40Ar/39Ar age spectra from low-grade metamorphic rocks: resolving the input of detrital and metamorphic components in a case study from the Delamerian Orogen

Anthony Reid*, Marnie Forster, Wolfgang Preiss, Alicia Caruso, Stacey Curtis, Tom Wise, Davood Vasegh, Naina Goswami, Gordon Lister

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we provide 40Ar/39Ar geochronology data from a suite of variably deformed rocks from a region of low-grade metamorphism within the Cambro-Ordovician Delamerian Orogen, South Australia. Low-grade metamorphic rocks such as these can contain both detrital minerals and minerals newly grown or partly recrystallised during diagenesis and metamorphism. Hence, they typically yield complex 40Ar/39Ar age spectra that can be difficult to interpret. Therefore, we have undertaken furnace step heating 40Ar/39Ar geochronology to obtain age spectra with many steps to allow for application of the method of asymptotes and limits and recognition of the effects of mixing. The samples analysed range from siltstone and shale to phyllite and contain muscovite or phengite with minor microcline as determined by hyperspectral mineralogical characterisation. Whole rock 40Ar/39Ar analyses were undertaken in most samples due to their very fine-grained nature. All samples are dominated by radiogenic 40Ar, and contain minimal evidence for atmospheric Ca- or Cl-derived argon. Chloritisation may have resulted in limited recoil, causing 39Ar argon loss in some samples, which is especially evident within the first few percent of gas released. Most of the age data, however, appear to have some geological significance. Viewed with respect to the known depositional ages of the stratigraphic units, the age spectra from this study do appear to record both detrital mineral ages and ages related to the varying influence of either cooling or deformation-induced recrystallisation. The shape of the age spectra and the degree of deformation in the phyllites suggest the younger ages may record recrystallisation of detrital minerals and/or new mica growth during deformation. Given that the younger limit of deformation recorded in the high-metamorphic-grade regions of the Delamerian Orogen is ca. 490Ma, the ca. 470 to ca. 458Ma ages obtained in this study suggest deformation in low-grade shear zones within the Delamerian Orogen may have persisted until ca. 20-32 million years after high-temperature ductile deformation in the high-grade regions of the orogen. We suggest that these younger ages for deformation could reflect reactivation of older structures formed both during rift basin formation and during the main peak of the Delamerian orogeny itself. The younger ca. 470 to ca. 458Ma deformation may have been facilitated by far-field tectonic processes occurring along the eastern paleo-Pacific margin of Gondwana.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-500
Number of pages30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2022


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