EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Micropredators skulking in Silurian oceans?

Isabella Leonhard1, Bryan Shirley1, Duncan Murdock2, and Emilia Jarochowska1
Isabella Leonhard et al.
  • 1Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Geozentrum Nordbayern, Paläoumwelt , Germany
  • 2Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Great Britain

Predation is potentially one of the most impactful evolutionary traits to have ever developed. Conodonts, an extinct group of early vertebrates, developed the first phosphatic dental tools, known as elements. Elements ranged from simple coniform types to more complex morphologies, predominantly in more derived species. Unlike the teeth of other vertebrates, these continuously grew throughout their lifetime by the periodic accretion of new lamellar tissues. This unique growth process continuously records chemical and physical characteristics throughout its lifespan which, when accessed, gives direct insight into the animal’s ecology and mode of life. Multiple lines of evidence, such as microwear studies and growth allometry, indicate that adult conodonts fed as predators and/or scavengers. There is little direct independent evidence for feeding ecologies in the earliest conodonts with coniform elements apparatuses, although previous modelling of element position and mechanical properties indicate these were capable of processing or manipulation of food. A direct test would be provided through evidence of tissue damage and its chemical composition. Our research focuses on samples of the coniform genus Panderodus (Family: Panderodontidae) from the Silurian of Poland and Ukraine. Panderodus has the best constrained apparatus reconstruction of any coniform conodont. Here we employ Backscatter electron (BSE) imaging and Energy-dispersive X-Ray spectroscopy (EDX) to identify growth dynamics, microwear, and chemical sclerochronology recorded within this unique mode of growth. Our results have direct implications not just for understanding the feeding mode of Panderodus, but also the origination of predation in the earliest vertebrates in the fossil record.

How to cite: Leonhard, I., Shirley, B., Murdock, D., and Jarochowska, E.: Micropredators skulking in Silurian oceans?, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-650,, 2019

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