Continental crust is a defining feature of Earth; yet, the mechanisms that control its growth remain hotly debated. Many approaches to estimating crustal growth focus solely on a single mineral—zircon, while constraints from the lithospheric mantle root remain largely neglected. Here, we critically examine the ability of zircon to accurately record the relative roles of juvenile crustal addition versus recycling, and present an alternative approach based on the geochemistry of crustal rock samples. The resulting model of continental crustal growth parallels, but pre-dates, the pattern of cratonic mantle lithosphere formation ages, indicating a distinct relationship between the continental crust and its mantle root. Our results indicate that continental crust and deep cratonic lithospheric roots grew progressively over ∼2.5 Gyr of Earth history, with clear temporal links to the birth of extensive lithospheric keels and establishment of continental drainage basins.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Chemistry
- Geochemistry and Petrology