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Conodont research has long been divided between utilitarian applications to solve geological problems versus analysis of their palaeobiology. However recent advances in conodont functional analysis allow these independent stands of research to be unified, decoding the functional implications of their morphological variation. We demonstrate this using synchrotron tomography and Finite Element Analysis, informed by occlusal and microwear analyses, to analyze functionally the classic evolutionary sequence of the genus Polygnathus. Our study shows that the evolution of the platform in Polygnathus occurred to accommodate and dissipate the stress accumulation derived from the tooth-like function that the P1 elements performed, suggesting that this recurrent motif of conodont evolution represents an adaptive response to recurrent functional selective pressures. Above all, our study establishes a framework in which the functional ecology of conodonts can be read from their rich taxonomy and phylogeny, representing an important attempt to understand the role of this abundant and diverse clade in the Phanerozoic marine ecosystems.