Middle Triassic conodont apparatus architecture revealed by synchrotron X-ray microtomography

Jin-Yuan Huang, Carlos Martinez-Perez, Shi-Xue Hu, Philip Donoghue, Qi-Yue Zhang, Chang-Yong Zhou, Wen Wen, Michael Benton, Mao Luo, Huazhou Yao, Kexin Zhang

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

15 Citations (Scopus)
246 Downloads (Pure)


The composition of conodont apparatuses is crucial for understanding the feeding mechanisms of these early vertebrates. However, the multielement apparatus reconstructions of most species remain equivocal because they have been inferred from loose element collections, guided by knowledge from rare articulated ‘bedding plane assemblages’ and fused clusters, often from distantly related taxa. Even these natural assemblages can be difficult to interpret because the component elements can be closely juxtaposed or embedded in matrix, making it hard to discern the morphology of the each elements and their relative positions within the architecture of the feeding apparatus. Here we report five exceptionally preserved conodont clusters from the Middle Triassic Luoping Biota, Yunnan Province, Southwest China. These materials were scanned using synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), revealing the morphology and positional homology of the component elements in the fused clusters. We confirm that the apparatus of Nicoraella was composed of eight types of elements, comprising a total of 15 elements. SRXTM reveals the positional homologies of the component elements, viz. a single alate element is located in the S0 position, flanked successively abaxially by pairs of breviform digyrate S1 and S2 elements, bipennate S3 and S4 elements, and a pair of inwardly curved breviform digyrate M elements. Carminate elements occupy the P1 and P2 positions. The apparatus of Nicoraella is among the most completely characterised of all conodonts and serves as a template for the reconstruction of gondollellids.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Early online date23 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Aug 2018


  • fused conodont clusters
  • 15-element apparatus
  • Anisian
  • Luoping Biota
  • Southwest China


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