Sherlock, Sarah C.; Kelley, Simon P.; Zalasiewicz, Jan A.; Schofield, David I.; Evans, Jane A.; Merriman, Richard J. and Kemp, Simon J.
Precise dating of low-temperature deformation: Strain-fringe analysis by 40Ar-39Ar laser microprobe.
Pyritized graptolites from the Welsh Basin (United Kingdom) slate belt acted as rigid bodies during cleavage formation, and epizonal white micas formed within the resulting. strain shadows, orthogonal to the principal stress orientation. Although the quantities of mica are small, they are a pure synkinematic mineral and have been dated by Ar-40-Ar-39 infrared laser microprobe as a means to dating cleavage. Four samples of strain-fringe mica from different hand samples yielded ages ranging from 394.4 +/- 3.1 to 397.8 +/- 1.8 Ma (2sigma), with a mean age of 396.1 +/- 1.4 Ma (2sigma). By focusing on minerals that are unequivocally synkinematic, this technique provides a novel solution to the problems of isotopically dating slaty cleavage. Previous studies have predominantly relied on dating whole-rock slate samples or separated illite grains by Ar-40-Ar-39 techniques; problems encountered included (1) separating the effects of isotopic contamination by detrital phases, (2) Ar-39 loss during the irradiation of illite mineral separates, and (3) thermally induced Ar-40 loss in nature from fine-grained minerals. By circumventing these problems, this new method provides the first unequivocal and high-precision age data for Acadian deformation in the well-characterized Welsh Basin slate belt. With such precision, the method may afford geologists the opportunity to track tectonic fronts across orogens and assess the rates of accretion processes in areas that are peripheral to sites of continent-continent collision.
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