A 2.023 Ga age for the Vredefort impact event and a first report of shock metamorphosed zircons in pseudotachylitic breccias and Granophyre
Usbnd Pb isotope systematics of shock metamorphosed zircon grains from pseudotachylitic breccias and Granophyre from the controversial Vredefort Structure, South Africa, provide new and compelling evidence for an impact origin for this structure. Zircon grains from these rocks exhibit planar microstructures and polycrystalline textures similar to those from the Chicxulub crater breccia, K/T boundary ejecta, and rocks from the Sudbury Structure. A concordant 2023 ± 4 Ma (2σ) age for newly crystallized, unshocked zircon grains from recrystallized pseudotachylitic breccia from the central part of the Vredefort Structure provides a good approximation of the time of impact. This age indicates that the impact post-dates Bushveld magmatism by at least 30 m.y. Usbnd Pb isotopic results for individual, pre-impact zircon grains indicate crystallization ages from about 3060 to 3300 Ma and Pb loss at ca. 2000 Ma. Data for high U grains plot below a discordia line from 3060 to 2023 Ma and indicate both impact- and post-impact related Pb loss. The data and granular morphology of a zircon grain from the Granophyre indicates probable ca. 2.0 Ga and ca. 1.0 Ga Pb loss. Although planar microstructures in zircon are ubiquitous, there are also some unshocked, low-U grains, and these record a ca. 3.1 Ga primary age. The older ca. 3.1-3.3 Ga ages for shocked zircons reflect formation and modification of granitoid crust in the region of the Vredefort Structure prior to and during a metamorphic event at about 3080 Ma.The resilience of zircon shock features to post-impact alteration and annealing, in combination with precise Usbnd Pb dating of individual shocked grains provide a valuable method for indentifying ancient, metamorphosed and tectonically modified impact structures.