The hydrodynamics of conodont elements



    1. The Jane Herdman Laboratories. Department of Earth Scicnces. University of Liverpool, Brownlow Street. P.O. Box 147, Liverpool, L69 3BX, UK
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Accurate palacobiological interpretation of the fossil record requires an assessment of biostratinomic processes. Samples which have undergone significant post-mortem sorting reflect only the hydrodynamic regime prevalent at the time of deposition and not the original faunal composition. Conodont bedding plane assemblagcs are rare and many conodont taxa are known only through reconstructions of apparatuses using empirical techniques. These methods require large collections where the elements have undergone no significant post-mortem transportation. In this paper measurements of settling velocities are used to predict relative hydrodynamic behaviour in a current. The settling velocity of a particle is of about the same magnitude as the current required to entrain that particle. Conodont elements rotate during fall, spinning about a central axis. Elements with equal Reynolds numbers may have different drag coefficients indicating that shape is an important factor in determining conodont element hydrodynamics. In a current of increasing velocity the predicted order of entrainment of elements of the same equivalent size is as follows: Polygnathus S. Ancyrodella Pa. Polygnathus Pa. Palmatolepis Pa. Polygnathus Pb. lcriodus Pa. Conodont elements grow by accretion of lamellae; to the first approximation. length is a satisfactory indication of size. Length can therefore be used to predict the settling velocities of elements, and which elements will sort together. Measurement of element lengths allows a rapid estimation of the degree of post-mortem sorting undergone by a sample and therefore its suitability for use in palaeobiological analysis. □Conodont hydrodynamics, biostratinomy, drag coefficient, settling velocity. sorting.