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  1. Abstract

    Oceanic hotspots with extreme enriched mantle radiogenic isotopic signatures—including low143Nd/144Nd indicative of subducted continental crust—are linked to plume conduits sampling the southern hemispheric mantle. However, the mechanisms responsible for concentrating subducted continental crust in the austral mantle are unknown. We show that subduction of sediments and subduction eroded material, and lower continental crust delamination, cannot generate this spatially coherent austral geochemical domain. However, continental collisions—associated with the assembly of Gondwana‐Pangea—were positioned predominantly in the southern hemisphere during the late Neoproterozoic appearance of widespread continental ultra‐high‐pressure metamorphic terranes, which marked the onset of deep subduction of upper continental crust. We propose that deep subduction of upper continental crust at ancient rifted‐passive margins during ca. 650‐300 Ma austral supercontinent assembly resulted in enhanced upper continental crust delivery into the southern hemisphere mantle. Similarly enriched mantle domains are absent in the boreal mantle plume source, for two reasons. First, continental crust subducted after 300 Ma—when the continents drifted into the northern hemisphere—has had insufficient time to return to the surface in plumes sampling the northern hemisphere mantle. Second, before the first known appearance of continental ultra‐high‐pressure rocks at 650 Ma, deep subduction of upper continental crust was uncommon, limiting its subduction into the northern (and southern) hemisphere mantle earlier in Earth history. Our model implies a recent formation of the austral enriched mantle domain, explains the geochemical dichotomy between austral and boreal plume sources, and may explain why there are twice as many austral hotspots as boreal hotspots.

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  2. Abstract

    The Great Unconformity is a widely distributed surface separating Precambrian rocks from overlying Phanerozoic sedimentary sequences. The causes and implications of this feature, and whether it represents a singular global event, are much debated. Here, we present new apatite (U‐Th)/He (AHe) thermochronologic data from the central Canadian Shield that constrain when the Precambrian basement last cooled to near‐surface temperatures, likely via exhumation, before deposition of overlying early Paleozoic sedimentary sequences that mark the Great Unconformity. AHe data from 11 samples (n = 57) across a broad region define a similar date‐eU pattern, implying a common thermal history. Higher eU (>25 ppm) apatite form distinct flat profiles of reproducible dates at ∼510 ± 49 Ma (mean and 1σstandard deviation), while lower eU (<25 ppm) apatite define a positive date‐eU trend with younger dates. The data patterns, geologic context, and thermal history modeling point toward >3 km of erosion across the entire ∼450,000 km2study area between 650 and 440 Ma, followed by modest reheating during later burial. Plume activity associated with intracratonic basin formation or continental rifting/breakup may have caused this erosion event. The post‐650 Ma timing of the last major sub‐Great Unconformity exhumation phase in this region implies a late Great Unconformity that is younger than inferred elsewhere in North America. This suggests that this feature is likely the result of multiple temporally distinct erosion events with differing footprints and mechanisms.

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  3. Abstract

    Cryogenian cap carbonates that overlie Sturtian glacial deposits were formed during a post‐glacial transgression. Here, we describe microfossils from the Kakontwe Formation of Zambia and the Taishir Formation of Mongolia—both Cryogenian age, post‐Sturtian cap carbonates—and investigate processes involved in their formation and preservation. We compare microfossils from these two localities to an assemblage of well‐documented microfossils previously described in the post‐Sturtian Rasthof Formation of Namibia. Microfossils from both new localities have 10 ± 1 μm‐thick walls composed of carbonaceous matter and aluminosilicate minerals. Those found in the Kakontwe Formation are spherical or ovoid and 90 ± 5 μm to 200 ± 5 μm wide. Structures found in the Taishir Formation are mostly spherical, 50 ± 5 μm to 140 ± 5 μm wide, with distinct features such as blunt or concave edges. Chemical and mineralogical analyses show that the walled structures and the clay fraction extracted from the surrounding sediments are composed of clay minerals, especially muscovite and illite, as well as quartz, iron and titanium oxides, and some dolomite and feldspar. At each locality, the mineralogy of the microfossil walls matched that of the clay fractions of the surrounding sediment. The abundance of these minerals in the walled microfossils relative to the surrounding carbonate matrix and microbial laminae, and the presence of minerals that cannot precipitate from solution (titanium oxide and feldspar), suggests that the composition represents the original mineralogy of the structures. Furthermore, the consistency in mineralogy of both microfossils and sediments across the three basins, and the uniformity of size and shape among mineral grains in the fossil walls indicate that these organisms incorporated these minerals by primary biological agglutination. The discovery of new, mineral‐rich microfossil assemblages in microbially laminated and other fine‐grained facies of Cryogenian cap carbonates from multiple localities on different palaeocontinents demonstrates that agglutinating eukaryotes were widespread in carbonate‐dominated marine environments in the aftermath of the Sturtian glaciation.

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