Article: The conodont apparatus as a food-gathering mechanism [The Seventeenth Annual Address, delivered March 1974]
The possible functioning, rather than the zoological affinity, of the conodonts is discussed. Symmetry considerations, as well as arrangement of conodonts in apparatuses found on bedding planes, are best compatible with arrangement of the elements about the mouth. Homology between the elements indicates that certain conclusions may apply generally. Many kinds of element could scarcely have functioned if turned with denticles toward the inside, hence the hypothetical animal is figured with denticles toward the outside. The apparatus was covered by soft tissue that is likely to have belonged to a lophophore. This functioned in the same way throughout the post-larval life of the animal (isometric growth of elements indicated by germ denticles). The denticulate aspect of the animal would have had a deterrent effect on predators, and denticles broken on encounters with predators could be regenerated. Long sharp teeth and subapical barbs on certain teeth served as passive defence. When attacked the animal might have contracted within the expandable, spinose lophophore part. Conodont remains ingested by conodontochordates suggest the upper size limit of the condodont animals. They probably fed on microscopic particulate, as well as on dissolved, nutrients.