Swiss Journal of Geosciences

, Volume 111, Issue 3, pp 399–416 | Cite as

Evaluating igneous sources of the Taveyannaz formation in the Central Alps by detrital zircon U–Pb age dating and geochemistry

  • Gang LuEmail author
  • Wilfried Winkler
  • Meinert Rahn
  • Albrecht von Quadt
  • Sean D. Willett


Late Palaeogene syn-tectonic volcanic products have been found in the Northern Alpine foreland basin and in the South Alpine hemipelagic basin. The source of abundant volcanic fragments is still in debate. We analyzed the geochronology and geochemistry of detrital zircons, and evaluated their temporal and genetic relationships with potential volcanic sources. The study shows that the detrital zircon U–Pb age patterns have two major age groups: a dominance (ca. 90%) of pre-Alpine zircons was found, as commonly observed in other Alpine flysch formations. These zircons apparently derived from erosion of the early Alpine nappe stack in South Alpine and Austroalpine units. Furthermore, a few Neo-Alpine zircons (ca. 10%) have ages ranging from Late Eocene to Early Oligocene (~ 41–29 Ma). Both source materials were mixed during long riverine transport to the basin margins before being re-deposited by gravity flows. These Palaeogene ages match with the activity of Peri-Adriatic magmatism, including the Biella volcanic suite as well as the Northern Adamello and Bergell intrusions. The values of REE and 176Hf/177Hf(t) ratios of the Alpine detrital zircons are in line with the magmatic signatures. We observe an in time and space variable supply of syn-sedimentary zircons. From late Middle Eocene to Late Eocene, basin influx into the South Alpine and Glarus (A) basins from the Northern Adamello source is documented. At about 34 Ma, a complete reorganisation is recorded by (1) input of Bergell sources into the later Glarus (B) basin, and (2) the coeval volcaniclastic supply of the Haute-Savoie basin from the Biella magmatic system. The Adamello source vanished in the foreland basin. The marked modification of the basin sources at ~ 34 Ma is interpreted to be initiated by a northwestern shift of the early Alpine drainage divide into the position of the modern Insubric Line.


North Alpine foreland basin Flysch LA-ICP-MS Zircon Hf isotope Palaeogeography 



We thank G. Fellin, V. Picotti, P. Brack, A. Beltrán-Triviño, D. Letsch, A. Mohammadi for continuous advice in the lab and for numerous discussions, M. Guillong for the great support while acquiring the U/Pb and the Hf data, and A. Di Capua for the continued help during field work and sample analysis. The journal reviewers A. El Korh and J. Hermann are thanked for their numerous constructive comments and suggestions. The support by a Chinese Scholarship (CSC) and ETH internal funding is much appreciated.

Supplementary material

15_2018_302_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (7.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 7852 kb)


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© Swiss Geological Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological Institute, ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate ENSIBruggSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute for Geochemistry and Petrology, ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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