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U-Pb zircon dates from volcanic ash beds within the Doushantuo Formation (China) indicate that its deposition occurred between 635 and 551 million years ago. The base records termination of the global-scale Marinoan glaciation and is coeval with similar dated rocks from Namibia, indicating synchronous deglaciation. Carbon isotopic and sequence-stratigraphic data imply that the spectacular animal fossils of the Doushantuo Formation are for the most part younger than 580 million years old. The uppermost Doushantuo Formation contains a pronounced negative carbonate carbon isotopic excursion, which we interpret as a global event at circa 551 million years ago.