CONODONTS were small eel-shaped animals with vertebrate affinities1–4. Known almost exclusively from the small, tooth-like, phosphatic elements of their feeding apparatus, they have one of the finest fossil records of any group of organisms. Until recently the identity of the animal to which conodont elements belonged was one of palaeontology's great mysteries; the function of the elements themselves, particularly blade-shaped elements, remains uncertain (compare refs 3 and 4). But recent insights into the conodont skeletal Bauplan5 allow the debate over function to be taken beyond arguments of analogy. Here we present a functional analysis of opposed blade-shaped-element pairs as components of an integrated apparatus. From this we conclude that such elements operated as cutting teeth within a grasping and food-processing apparatus.
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Purnell, M., von Bitter, P. Blade-shaped conodont elements functioned as cutting teeth. Nature 359, 629–631 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1038/359629a0
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