Dzik, J. 2008. Evolution of morphogenesis in 360 million year old conodont chordates calibrated in days. Evolution and Development (in press)


Highly rhythmic increments of crown tissue are identifiable in conodont oral apparatus elements from the Late Devonian of the Holy Cross Mountains, Poland; individual laminae being of thickness comparable with daily increments of vertebrate tooth enamel and fish otoliths. Abundant occurrence of such specimens enables bed-by-bed (stratophenetic) studies of the process of evolution at the population level and quantitative presentation of the evolution of ontogeny in the sampled geological section covering several million years. The morphologic transformation is expressed as expansion of a juvenile asymmetry to later stages of the ontogeny and in decrease of the mature element width, which was due to a change of the mineral tissue secretion rate. It was not just a simple extension of a juvenile character into the later stage of the ontogeny (heterochrony) but rather a true developmental novelty. The evolution was gradual and very slow. The proposed quantitative approach to growth increments in the mineral skeleton of ancient chordates introduces real time units to evolutionary developmental studies connected with direct paleontological evidence on the course of evolution.