# Class: Euconodonta (conodont animals)
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Conodont animals were eal-like primitive jawless vertebrates
that lived 520 to 190 million years ago. For many years they were only known
from fossilised tooth-like structures (termed conodonts) and their true identity
was only revealed once fossilised soft body parts were discovered in association
with the conodonts. Conodont fossils are found worldwide and in southern Africa
are know from the Soom Shale in the Cedarberg.
Conodonts are small tooth-like fossils (0.25 - 2 mm long)
that are found in marine sediments dating from the late Cambrian through to the
Triassic (c 520 - 190 million years BP), and are important in identifying
different marine strata. The animal to which these conodont structures belonged
remained a mystery until the 1980's when a fossil was discovered near Edinburgh
with such excellent preservation of soft parts that the form of the whole animal
could be discerned. The conodont animal turned out to be an eal-like early
jawless vertebrate. Some of the biggest conodonts have been discovered in
the Soom Shale in the Cedarberg Mountains, Western Cape, South Africa, and soft
body parts have been preserved in these strata as well.
Aldridge, R.J., Theron, J.N., Gabbott, S.E. 1994. The Soom
Shale: a unique Ordovician fossil horizon in South Africa. Geol. Today 10:
Durand, J.F. 2005. Major African contributions to Palaeozoic
and Mesozoic vertebrate palaeontology. Journal of African Earth Sciences
Gabbott, S.E. 1998. Taphonomy of the Ordovician Soom Shale
Lagerstatte: an example of soft tissue preservation in clay minerals.
Palaeontology 41: 631–667.
Gabbott, S.E., Aldridge, R.J., Theron, J.N. 1995. A giant
conodont with preserved muscle tissue from the Upper Ordovician of South
Africa. Nature 374: 800–803.
Gabbott, S.E., Norry, M.J., Aldridge, R.J., Theron, J.N.
2001. Preservation of fossils in clay minerals, a unique example from the
Upper Ordovician Soom Shale, South Africa. Proc. Yorkshire Geol. Soc. 53: