Transformations to granular zircon revealed: Twinning, reidite, and ZrO2 in shocked zircon from Meteor Crater (Arizona, USA)OPEN ACCESS 

Aaron J. Cavosie, Nicholas E. Timms, Timmons M. Erickson, Justin J. Hagerty, Friedrich Hörz

Geology, First published on 2016-07-19 08:56:19, doi:10.1130/G38043.1


“Granular zircon in impact environments has long been recognized but remains poorly understood due to lack of experimental data to identify mechanisms involved in its genesis. Meteor Crater in Arizona (USA) contains abundant evidence of shock metamorphism, including shocked quartz, the high-pressure polymorphs coesite and stishovite, diaplectic SiO2 glass, and lechatelierite (fused SiO2). Here we report the presence of granular zircon, a new shocked-mineral discovery at Meteor Crater, that preserve critical orientation evidence of specific transformations that occurred during formation at extreme impact conditions. The zircon grains occur as aggregates of sub-micrometer neoblasts in highly shocked Coconino Sandstone (CS) comprised of lechatelierite. Electron backscatter diffraction shows that each grain consists of multiple domains, some with boundaries disoriented by 65° around <110>, a known {112} shock-twin orientation. Other domains have {001} in alignment with {110} of neighboring domains, consistent with the former presence of the high-pressure ZrSiO4 polymorph reidite. Additionally, nearly all zircon preserve ZrO2 + SiO2, providing evidence of partial dissociation. The genesis of CS granular zircon started with detrital zircon that experienced shock twinning and reidite formation at pressures from 20 to 30 GPa, ultimately yielding a phase that retained crystallographic memory; this phase subsequently recrystallized to systematically oriented zircon neoblasts, and in some areas partially dissociated to ZrO2. The lechatelierite matrix, experimentally constrained to form at >2000 °C, provided the ultrahigh-temperature environment for zircon dissociation (~1670 °C) and neoblast formation. The capacity of granular zircon to preserve a cumulative pressure-temperature record has not been recognized previously, and provides a new method for investigating histories of impact-related mineral transformations in the crust at conditions far beyond those at which most rocks melt.”