U–Pb isotopic dating of titanite microstructures: potential implications for the chronology and identification of large impact structures

  • K. PapapavlouEmail author
  • J. R. Darling
  • D. E. Moser
  • I. R. Barker
  • EIMF
  • L. F. White
  • P. C. Lightfoot
  • C. D. Storey
  • J. Dunlop
Original Paper


Identifying and dating large impact structures is challenging, as many of the traditional shock indicator phases can be modified by post-impact processes. Refractory accessory phases, such as zircon, while faithful recorders of shock wave passage, commonly respond with partial U–Pb age resetting during impact events. Titanite is an accessory phase with lower Pb closure temperature than many other robust chronometers, but its potential as indicator and chronometer of impact-related processes remains poorly constrained. In this study, we examined titanite grains from the Sudbury (Ontario, Canada) and Vredefort (South Africa) impact structures, combining quantitative microstructural and U–Pb dating techniques. Titanite grains from both craters host planar microstructures and microtwins that show a common twin–host disorientation relationship of 74° about <102>. In the Vredefort impact structure, the microtwins deformed internally and developed high- and low-angle grain boundaries that resulted in the growth of neoblastic crystallites. U–Pb isotopic dating of magmatic titanite grains with deformation microtwins from the Sudbury impact structure yielded a 207Pb/206Pb age of 1851 ± 12 Ma that records either the shock heating or the crater modification stage of the impact event. The titanite grains from the Vredefort impact structure yielded primarily pre-impact ages recording the cooling of the ultra-high-temperature Ventersdorp event, but domains with microtwins or planar microstructures show evidence of U–Pb isotopic disturbance. Despite that the identified microtwins are not diagnostic of shock-metamorphic processes, our contribution demonstrates that titanite has great potential to inform studies of the terrestrial impact crater record.


Titanite Sudbury Vredefort U–Pb geochronology EBSD Impact craters 



K.P acknowledges a Ph.D. studentship from the University of Portsmouth. Vale is acknowledged for access to drillcore material. Vale geologists Lisa Gibson, Colin Mecke, Clarence Pickett, and Rob Pelkey are thanked for the provided information and feedback. J.D acknowledges Higher Education Innovation Fund and Researcher Development Fund grant from the University of Portsmouth. Constructive and insightful reviews by Timmons Erickson and an anonymous reviewer enhanced the manuscript and are greatly appreciated. The previous reviews by Nick Timms, Chloe Bonamici, Fred Jourdan, and Elizaveta Kovaleva are also greatly appreciated as well as editorial handling by Steven Reddy. Personal communication with Mark Biren regarding unpublished data from the Manicouagan impact crater is also gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GEOTOPUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK
  3. 3.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  4. 4.Edinburgh Ion Microprobe Facility, School of Geosciences, Grant InstituteUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  5. 5.Department of Natural HistoryRoyal Ontario MuseumTorontoCanada

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