Remnants of Earth's original crust found in Canada
Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 10:03 AM - Geologists have uncovered traces of Earth's crust from 4.3 billion years ago in the Canadian Shield, according to new research published in the journal Science.
The remnants belong to Earth's original crust, which, by natural geological cycles, has spent the last 4.6 billion years shifting quite deep below the surface.
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"Although some slivers of the crust remain in the rock record, only isolated zircon mineral grains are dated to be older," the study reads. The two geologists that conducted the research -- Jonathan O'Neil from the University of Ottawa, and Richard W. Carlson from the Carnegie Institution for Science -- found "isotopic evidence" of crust from more than 4.3 billion years ago mixed into some of the 2.7-billion-year-old rocks in Canada's Superior Craton.
Earth's oldest crust in existence today is roughly 2.7 billion years old, the CBC reports, and remnants of this crust is widely known to exist in the Canadian Shield.
It's the older crust -- dating back just under 4.6 billion years ago, when Earth came into existence -- that remained in the dark for scientists. With the intention of finding remnants of the elusive crust, O'Neil and Carlson set out to northern Quebec to collect samples.
According to O'Neil, tracing the origins of rocks is a challenging feat.
"Most granite, we believe, comes from the melting of an older crust," O'Neil told the CBC. "We knew that these rocks had an older precursor or an older parent. But how old, we didn't know."
By measuring an isotope that was only generated during the planet's first 500 million years, the team was able to determine that the crust originated with Earth's early years.
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