Cutting the first ‘teeth’: a new approach to functional analysis of conodont elements

Duncan J E Murdock, IJ Sansom, Philip C J Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The morphological disparity of conodont elements rivals the dentition of
allothervertebrates,yetrelativelylittleisknownabouttheirfunctionaldiversity.
Nevertheless, conodonts are an invaluable resource for testing the generality of
functional principles derived from vertebrate teeth, and for exploring conver-
gence in a range of food-processing structures. In a few derived conodont
taxa, occlusal patterns have been used to derive functional models. However,
conodont elements commonly and primitively exhibit comparatively simple
coniform morphologies, functional analysis of which has not progressed
muchbeyondspeculationbasedonanalogy.Wehavegeneratedhigh-resolution
tomographic data for each morphotype of the coniform conodont
Panderodus acostatus . Using virtual cross sections, it has been possible to characterize changes in physical properties associated with individual element morphology.
Subtle changes in cross-sectional profile have profound implications for the
functional performance of individual elements and the apparatus as a whole.
This study has implications beyond the ecology of a single conodont taxon. It
provides a basis for reinterpreting coniform conodont taxonomy (which is
based heavily on cross-sectional profiles), in terms of functional performance
and ecology, shedding new light on the conodont fossil record. This technique
can also be applied to more derived conodont morphologies, as well as analo-
gous dentitions in other vertebrates and invertebrates
Original languageEnglish
Article numberProc R Soc B 280: 20131524.
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume280
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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