International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 108, Issue 1, pp 1–25 | Cite as

Interpretation and significance of combined trace element and U–Pb isotopic data of detrital rutile: a case study from late Ordovician sedimentary rocks of Saxo-Thuringia, Germany

  • Delia RöselEmail author
  • Thomas Zack
  • Andreas Möller
Original Paper


The U–Pb age and trace element composition of detrital rutile provide information about the metamorphic history of the source region that cannot be constrained by traditional U–Pb dating of detrital zircon. Previous provenance investigations focussed on only one of these methods. Based on a large LA-ICP-MS trace element and U–Pb isotopic dataset of detrital rutile and U–Pb isotopic data of detrital zircon from late Ordovician sedimentary rocks of Saxo-Thuringia, Germany, this paper discusses the application and significance of combining these methods in provenance investigations. U–Pb age spectra from the detrital zircons analysed show multiple age components (multimodal age spectra) in all samples. This is in contrast with the detrital rutile data, as only one sample yielded a multimodal U–Pb age distribution. Multimodal age spectra of detrital rutile are most likely preserved in sediments from (large) catchment areas with complex geological histories. They may also be related to specific sedimentation events, such as glacial washout during the retreat of large ice shields (e.g. the Hirnantian glaciation of Gondwana). Unimodal age spectra are however not restricted to small catchment areas, if the provenance region is characterized by a pervasive thermal overprint such as the Pan-African orogeny throughout Gondwana. Unimodal age distributions may further consist of overlapping age cluster detectable by different trace element composition of the detrital rutile grains. The combined U–Pb age and trace element data from detrital rutile grains demonstrate that rutile sourced from metapelitic rocks yield reliable and precise U–Pb ages. In contrast, detrital rutile classified to be of metamafic origin generally has too low uranium concentrations to be dated reliably by LA-ICP-MS. Detrital rutile records low- to medium-grade metamorphic events in the source region and therefore has the potential to better constrain the maximum depositional age of sedimentary rocks in comparison to U–Pb dating of detrital zircon.


Provenance Rutile Zircon U–Pb dating Saxo-Thuringia Gondwana 



First of all, we would like to thank G. Meinhold and H. Bahlburg for very constructive reviews. The editorial handling from A. Gerdes and W.-C. Dullo is highly acknowledged. A. Gerdes further provided additional comments that helped to improve the manuscript. J. Oalmann and M. Barth are gratefully thanked for assistance during LA-ICP-MS analyses. The authors gratefully acknowledge R. White and S.D. Boger for reading a pre-submission version of this manuscript. S. Buhre is acknowledged for his help with sample preparation. Financial support was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Grant ZA285/6-1.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLS 469 KB)
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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für GeologieTechnische Universität Bergakademie FreibergFreibergGermany
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Department of Earth Sciences, School of Physical SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Department of GeologyThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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