Conodont

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Conodonts are extinct chordates resembling eels, classified in the class Conodonta. For many years, they were known only from tooth-like microfossils now called conodont elements, found in isolation. Knowledge about soft tissues remains relatively sparse to this day. The animals are also called Conodontophora (conodont bearers) to avoid ambiguity.

Contents

Description

The eleven known fossil imprints of conodont animals depict an eel-like creature with 15 or, more rarely, 19 elements forming a bilaterally symmetrical array in the head. This array constituted a feeding apparatus radically different to the jaws of modern animals. There are three forms of teeth, coniform cones, ramiform bars, and pectiniform platforms, which may have performed different roles.

The organisms range from a centimeter or so[verification needed] to the giant Promissum, 40 cm in length.[1] It is now widely agreed that conodonts had large eyes, fins with fin rays, chevron-shaped muscles and a notochord.

The entire class of Conodonts, or at least what was left of them at the time, are postulated to have been wiped out by the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event, which occurred roughly 200 million years ago.[2]

Ecology

The "teeth" of some conodonts have been interpreted as filter-feeding apparatus, filtering out plankton from the water and passing it down the throat.[citation needed] Others have been interpreted as a "grasping and crushing array".[1]

The lateral position of the eyes makes a predatory role unlikely.[citation needed]

The preserved musculature hints that some conodonts (Promissum at least) were efficient cruisers but incapable of bursts of speed.[1]

Classification and Phylogeny

The conodonts are currently classified in the phylum Chordata because their fins with fin rays, chevron-shaped muscles and notochord are characteristic of Chordata.[3]

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