Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Peculiar feeding mechanism of the first vertebrates

Date:
May 20, 2011
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
A fang-like tooth on double upper lips, spiny teeth on the tongue and a pulley-like mechanism to move the tongue backwards and forwards -- this bizarre bite belongs to a conodont and, thanks to a fresh fossil find, has now been analyzed and reconstructed by paleontologists. Their analysis sheds some light on the evolutionary origin of jaws. Using a 3D animated model, the reconstruction shows for the first time how the first vertebrates fed.

Feeding apparatus of a Conodont.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Zurich

A fang-like tooth on double upper lips, spiny teeth on the tongue and a pulley-like mechanism to move the tongue backwards and forwards -- this bizarre bite belongs to a conodont and, thanks to a fresh fossil find, has now been analyzed and reconstructed by a Swiss-French research team headed by paleontologists from the University of Zurich. Their analysis sheds some light on the evolutionary origin of jaws. Using a 3D animated model, the reconstruction shows for the first time how the first vertebrates fed.

Jaws made of bone are commonplace in the animal kingdom. However, how jaws developed in the course of evolution is still a mystery. Under the direction of paleontologist Nicolas Goudemand, a team of researchers from the University of Zurich and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility set about solving this puzzle. Living and extinct jawless animals can yield clues as to the development of the jaw.

The researchers studied fossilized conodonts -- extinct, eel-shaped animals whose precise relationship with the actual vertebrates is still a matter of debate.

For their project, which was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and just published in the American journal PNAS, the researchers analyzed new conodont fossils that date from around the biggest mass extinction event at the boundary between the Permian and Triassic periods.

Multitasking thanks to teeth on upper lips and tongue

In some of these new fossils discovered in China, the researchers noticed several conjoined tooth-like structures that occupied an unusual position in the mouth. Based on this discovery and the re-evaluation of other unusually constructed conodont feeding apparatus, the scientists developed a 3D animated model that shows how conodonts fed: most conodonts had to have two upper lips, upon each of which there was a long, fang-like structure. The conodonts also had a kind of tongue bearing a complex set of spiny or comb-like 'teeth'. The 'tongue' rested on pulley-like cartilage and could be moved backwards and forwards thanks to two opposing muscles. The conodonts used the 'tongue' and lips to grab food before two pairs of relatively robust, sometimes molar-like 'throat teeth' ground and cut it up.

Similarity with lampreys

The conodonts' unique feeding mechanism is fairly similar to that of the extant lamprey, which is widely regarded as the extinct conodonts' nearest relative. The new findings confirm that conodonts are to be considered primitive vertebrates from an evolutionary point of view. Moreover, due to the comparative feeding mechanism and other similarities, lampreys and conodonts must have a common ancestor which was one of the first vertebrates. This common ancestor must also have had a tongue mounted on pulley-like cartilage and therefore eaten in the same manner as the conodonts.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Zurich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. Goudemand, M. J. Orchard, S. Urdy, H. Bucher, P. Tafforeau. Synchrotron-aided reconstruction of the conodont feeding apparatus and implications for the mouth of the first vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1101754108

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Peculiar feeding mechanism of the first vertebrates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110519090356.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2011, May 20). Peculiar feeding mechanism of the first vertebrates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110519090356.htm
University of Zurich. "Peculiar feeding mechanism of the first vertebrates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110519090356.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) MIT researchers were able to change whether bad memories in mice made them anxious by flicking an emotional switch in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A study out of University at Buffalo claims couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to experience intimate partner violence. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A panda in China showed pregnancy symptoms that disappeared after two months of observation. One theory: Her pseudopregnancy was a ploy for perks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins