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Temporal range: Upper Cambrian to Upper Triassic
495–199.6 million years ago
|Reconstruction of a Conodont|
For many years conodonts were known only from their feeding apparatus, which fossilises well. This is because most of the conodont animal was soft-bodied, so everything but the teeth were not fossilised in normal circumstances.
The 'teeth', called conodont 'elements', are very common in the fossil record, and have been used in biostratigraphy.
They are also used as palaeothermometers. This is because under higher temperatures the phosphate undergoes colour changes, which are measured with the conodont alteration index. This has made them useful for petroleum exploration in rocks dating from the Cambrian to the Upper Triassic.
Description of the animal
Eleven fossil imprints of conodont animals are known. They depict an eel-like creature with 15 or, more rarely, 19 elements forming a bilaterally symmetrical array in the head. This array was a feeding apparatus different from 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 to the giant Promissum, 40 cm in length. It is now widely agreed that conodonts had large eyes, fins with fin rays, chevron-shaped muscles and a notochord.
- Briggs, D.E.G.; E.N.K. Clarkson & R.J. Aldridge (1983). "The conodont animal". Lethaia 16: 1–14. 
- Gabbott, S.E.; R.J. Aldridge, J.N. Theron (1995). "A giant conodont with preserved muscle tissue from the Upper Ordovician of South Africa". Nature 374: 800–803. .
- The extinction of conodonts —in terms of discrete elements— at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary