Conodont element function



There are close similarities between conodont elements and teeth both in general shape and in that they possess pointed tips and have expanded bases with more porous tissue. A number of examples of conodont elements which parallel specific kinds of tooth shapes and organizations are added to earlier known similarities. Both in teeth and in conodont elements the surface structures include cutting edges, striations, and barbs. The change in strength of the conodont denticles caused by the evolution of white matter is also shown to agree with a tooth function. On the other hand, the elements grew throughout the life of the animal by lamellae added to the surface. The solution of this paradox is found in the elements alternating between a growth phase and a functional phase. During growth the oral surface of the elements was enveloped in folds of secreting soft tissue. Structures henceforth termed burrs were formed at the contacts between the folds. Parts of the burrs evolved into cutting edges. Three different bite types occurred among the conodont elements. Many (all?) conodonts were predators which used their elements to seize and to process the food mechanically. The shape of the conodont elements cannot be used for conclusions regarding the affinities of the conodonts. Similarly, an identification of a fossil as belonging to the conodonts must be supported by other evidence than just shape.