Conodont animals are an extinct group of jawless vertebrates whose hard parts, also known as conodont elements, represent the earliest evidence of a mineralised skeleton in the vertebrate lineage. Conodont elements are interpreted as parts of a feeding apparatus, which together with the presence of eyes and microwear patterns, support the controversial hypothesis that conodont animals were macrophagous predators and/or scavengers. Here, we explore the trophic position of five conodont genera (Palmatolepis, Polygnathus, Ancyrodella, Ancyrognathus and Icriodus) from five contemporary Late Devonian sites distributed worldwide (France, Morocco, Vietnam and Australia) by means of calcium (Ca) stable isotope compositions. The seawater Ca isotope composition was calibrated using contemporary Late Devonian brachiopod isotopic values. By comparison with extant marine trophic chain composed of cartilaginous fish, conodont Ca isotope compositions are indicative of a zooplanktivore - primary piscivore niche, with no genus-specific trophic pattern. The question of active predation or scavenging cannot be resolved definitively but our results strongly suggest that Late Devonian conodonts were first level consumers.
- calcium isotopes
- trophic chain