Ages of Permian volcanic rocks from the Ligurian Briançonnais domain (Western Italian Alps) have been determined by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry U–Pb dating of zircon. Three major volcanic units yielded zircons that were dated: calc-alkaline rhyolites (285.6 ± 2.6 Ma), andesites (with inherited cores yielded ages c. 476 Ma and older) and voluminous rhyodacites–rhyolites (272.7 ± 2.2 Ma). Following an amagmatic, sediment-starved time gap of c. 14 Ma, alkaline volcanic activity is recorded, at the top of the sequence, by K-alkaline rhyolites dated at 258.5 ± 2.8 Ma. The Ligurian segment of the Southern Variscan belt records transtensional and then extensional tectonics associated with the volcanic activity. The switch from calc-alkaline to alkaline activity corresponds to the transition from a post-orogenic to an anorogenic setting in the Southern Variscides; it may represent progressive and increasing delamination of the continental lithosphere, accompanied by partial melting of the lithospheric mantle.

Supplementary material:

Technical and data acquisition parameters, U–Th–Pb isotope analyses and calculated ages of zircons from samples and standard, and trace element compositions of selected zircons are available at: http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/SUP18322.

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