Date of Thesis

Spring 2012


Detrital zircon and metamorphic monazite ages from the Picuris Mountains, north central New Mexico, were used to confirm the depositional age of the Marquenas Formation, to document the depositional age of the Vadito Group, and to constrain the timing of metamorphism and deformation in the region.

Detrital zircon 207Pb/206Pb ages were obtained with the LA-MC-ICPMS from quartzites collected from the type locality of the Marquenas Formation exposed at Cerro de las Marquenas, and from the lower Vadito Group in the southern and eastern Picuris Mountains. The Marquenas Formation sample yields 113 concordant ages including a Mesoproterozoic age population with four grains ca. 1470 Ga, a broad Paleoproterozoic age peak at 1695 Ma, and minor Archean age populations. Data confirm recent findings of Mesoproterozoic detrital zircons reported by Jones et al. (2011), and show that the Marquenas Formation is the youngest lithostratigraphic unit in the Picuris Mountains. Paleoproterozoic and Archean detrital grains in the Marquenas Formation are likely derived from local recycled Vadito Group rocks and ca. 1.75 Ga plutonic complexes, and ca. 1.46 detrital zircons were most likely derived from exposed Mesoproterozoic plutons south of the Picuris. Ninety-five concordant grains from each of two Vadito Group quartzites yield relatively identical unimodal Paleoproterozoic age distributions, with peaks at 1713-1707 Ma. Eastern exposures of quartzite mapped as Marquenas Formation yield detrital zircon age patterns and metamorphic mineral assemblages that are nearly identical to the Vadito Group. On this basis, I tentatively assigned the easternmost quartzite to the Vadito Group. Zircon grains in all samples show low U/Th ratios, welldeveloped concentric zoning, and no evidence of metamorphic overgrowth events, consistent with an igneous origin. North-directed paleocurrent indicators, such as tangential crossbeds (Soegaard & Eriksson, 1986) and other primary sedimentary structures, are preserved in the Marquenas Formation quartzite. Together with pebble-toboulder metaconglomerates in the Marquenas, these observations suggest that this formation was deposited in a braided alluvial plain environment in response to syntectonic uplift to the south of the Picuris Mountains.

Metamorphic monazite from two Vadito Group quartzite samples were analyzed with an electron microprobe (EMP). Elemental compositional variation with respect to Th and Y define core and rim domains in monazite grains, and show lower concentrations of Th (1.46-1.52 wt%) and Y (0.67 wt%) in the cores, and higher concentrations of Th (1.98 wt%) and Y (1.06 wt%) in the rims. Results show that Mesoproterozoic core and rim ages from five grains overlap within uncertainty, ranging from 1395-1469 Ma with an average age of 1444 Ma. This 1.44 Ga average age is the dominant timing of metamorphic monazite growth in the region, and represents the timing of metamorphism experienced by the region. An older 1630 Ma core observed in sample CD10-12 may be interpreted as a result of low temperature metamorphism in lower Vadito Group rocks due to heat from ca. 1.65 Ga granitic intrusions. Core ages ca. 1.5 Ga are likely due to a mixing age of two different age domains during analyses. Confirmed sedimentation at 1.48-1.45 Ga and documented mid-crustal regional metamorphism in northern New Mexico ca. 1.44-1.40 are likely associated with a Mesoproterozoic orogenic event.


Detrital Zircon, Metamorphic Monazite, Mesoproterozoic, New Mexico, Picuris Mountains, Orogeny, Tectonism

Access Type

Honors Thesis


Geology & Environmental Geosciences

First Advisor

Christopher G. Daniel

Included in

Geology Commons