Geological Magazine

Original Article

Hidden Archaean and Palaeoproterozoic crust in NW Ireland? Evidence from zircon Hf isotopic data from granitoid intrusions

M. J. FLOWERDEWa1 c1, D. M. CHEWa2, J. S. DALYa3 and I. L. MILLARa4

a1 British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK

a2 Department of Geology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

a3 UCD School of Geological Sciences, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

a4 NERC isotope Geosciences Laboratory, Kingsley Dunham Centre, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, UK


The presence of major crystalline basement provinces at depth in NW Ireland is inferred from in situ Hf isotope analysis of zircons from granitoid rocks that cut structurally overlying metasedimentary rocks. Granitoids in two of these units, the Slishwood Division and the Tyrone Central Inlier, contain complex zircons with core and rim structures. In both cases, cores have average xs03F5Hf values that differ from the average xs03F5Hf values of the rims at 470 Ma (the time of granitoid intrusion). The Hf data and similarity in U–Pb age between the inherited cores and detrital zircons from the host metasedimentary rocks suggests local contamination during intrusion rather than transport of the grains from the source region at depth. Rims from the Slishwood Division intrusions have average xs03F5Hf470 values of −7.7, consistent with a derivation from juvenile Palaeoproterozoic crust, such as the Annagh Gneiss Complex or Rhinns Complex of NW Ireland, implying that the deep crust underlying the Slishwood Division is made of similar material. Rims from the Tyrone Central Inlier have extremely negative xs03F5Hf470 values of approximately −39. This isotopic signature requires an Archaean source, suggesting rocks similar to the Lewisian Complex of Scotland, or sediment derived wholly from it, occurs at depth in NW Ireland.

(Received February 23 2009)

(Accepted April 21 2009)

(Online publication September 07 2009)


  • zircon;
  • Hf isotope;
  • granite;
  • petrogenesis;
  • Caledonides


c1 Author for correspondence: