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Zircons from a >45-cm-thick K-bentonite (altered ash-fall tuff) bed within the upper Barrios Formation (Ordovician Armorican Quartzite facies), in the Cantabrian zone of the Iberian Variscan belt were dated by isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry. U-Pb analyses of six highly abraded single grains yielded concordant and overlapping error ellipses with a pooled concordia age of 477.47 ± 0.93 Ma. This age provides the depositional age of the Armorican Quartzite facies in the studied sector and establishes an absolute minimum age for the rifting that led to the opening of the Rheic Ocean in this section of northern Gondwana. This age is within error of the currently accepted interpolated age for the Tremadocian–Lower Ordovician Stage 2 (Floian) limit at 478.6 ± 1.7 Ma (Gradstein et al., 2004).

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