Translator Disclaimer
1 December 2009 The Earliest Known Venomous Animals Recognized Among Conodonts
Author Affiliations +

Conodonts, a large group of tiny extinct marine animals ranging in age from the Late Cambrian to Late Triassic (ca. 500 to 200 Mya), are usually considered as jawless vertebrates. Their only commonly occurring fossilized remains are minute, phosphatic, teeth-like elements of their feeding apparatuses. In most of the early conodonts the elements were conical and strongly elongated. Many of them are characterized by possession of a deep, longitudinal groove, usually associated with sharp edges or ridges. A comparative study of the grooved elements and venomous teeth and spines of living and extinct vertebrates strongly suggests that the groove in conodonts was also used for delivery of venom. Structural convergence of the conodont apparatus Panderodus with the grasping apparatus of chaetognaths, a group of extant, venomous invertebrate predators of similarly ancient origin, provides additional support for this conclusion.


Conodonts are well known to geologists because the fossilized elements of their feeding apparatuses are exceedingly useful for stratigraphy. The elements, usually 0.1 to 3 mm in size, occur commonly in marine rocks of Cambrian to Triassic age. Their strong morphological diversification and rapid evolution is reflected in their taxonomy. According to Sweet (1988) there are more than 200 genera of well-recognized conodonts. Morphological and chemical similarity of conodont elements to fish teeth led to early suppositions of their vertebrate origin (Pander 1856). Their inner structure and lack of other skeletal remnants in the fossil record, however, meant that for a very long time their origin was unknown. The problem presented one of the biggest paleontological mysteries of the past century. Occasional preservation of natural clusters of elements and bedding plane assemblages, as well as morphological studies and statistical analyses of co-occurring elements, resulted in recognition of numerous conodont apparatuses. All are bilaterally symmetrical and usually composed of 3 to 7 different element morphologies arranged in mirror-image pairs, with one symmetrical element unpaired. Since the discovery of conodont soft body remains (Briggs et al. 1983), which shows chordate characters such as v-shaped myomeres, the hypothesis that conodonts are related to vertebrates has become dominant (see Donoghue et al. 2000). However, the systematic position of conodonts is still under discussion (Kasatkina and Buryi 1997; Pridmore et al. 1997; Bultynck 2009). Besides, some of the microfossils considered as elements of conodonts became later identified as grasping spines of chaetognaths (Szaniawski 2002).

Wide geographic distribution shows that conodonts led a nektonic mode of life while their strong feeding apparatus suggest that they may have been swimming predators. Many of the early conodonts possessed apparatuses constructed exclusively of conical elements. Numerous of these elements have a longitudinal groove but its biological function has been hitherto unknown. The elements show similarity to the grasping spines of chaetognaths and also to the venomous fangs of vertebrates. Conodonts having grasping-like apparatuses composed of elongated, conical elements with a deep, longitudinal groove are considered herein as being venomous. A brief report of such a possibility, with reference to the family Panderodontidae Lindström, 1970, has been already published (Szaniawski 2006).

Institutional abbreviation.

  • ZPAL, Institute of Paleobiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.

Material and methods

All illustrated specimens are stored at ZPAL. The last two numerals used for the specimens in this collection indicate the number of the SEM stub and of the specimen on the stub.

For cross sections illustrated on Fig. 2A the specimen was embedded in epoxy resin, sectioned, polished with aluminum oxide (1200 grit) and etched in 2% nitric acid. The specimen illustrated on Fig. 2B has been fractured and etched with chromium sulfate, pH 5.3.

Fig. 1.

Elements of venomous conodonts. A. Panderodus sulcatus (Fåhræus, 1966), Middle Ordovician, borehole Deniski, eastern Poland; ZPAL C.19/150.1. B. Panderodus greenlandensis Armstrong, 1990, Early Silurian, Jädivere, Estonia; ZPAL C. 19/145.2. C, D. Protopanderodus calceatus Bagnoli and Stouge, 1997, Middle Ordovician, borehole Pieszkowo, north-eastern Poland. C. Whole element; ZPAL C. 19/156.3. D. A fragment showing cross section; ZPAL C.19/159.19. E. Panderodus sp., Middle Ordovician, borehole Stadniki, eastern Poland; ZPAL C.19/159.12. F. Dapsilodus mutatus (Branson and Mehl, 1933), Late Ordovician, borehole Stadniki, eastern Poland; ZPAL C.19/159.4. G. Decoriconus fragilis (Branson and Mehl, 1933), Middle Silurian, borehole Goldap, northern Poland; ZPAL C.19/160.12. H. Parapanderodus sp., Early Silurian, Podolia, Ukraine; ZPAL C.15/1. I. Panderodus sp. Middle Silurian, borehole Goldap, northern Poland; ZPAL C. 19/149.2, whole element (I1), distal part of the specimen showing wear of the tip (I2). J. Panderodus greenlandensis, Early Silurian, Jädivere, Estonia; ZPAL C. 19/145.1, whole specimen (J1), distal part of the same specimen showing wear of the tip (J2), a fragment of the specimen showing thin longitudinal ridges parallel to the groove and sharp edges delimiting the grooved surface (J3), basal part of the specimen showing coarse ridges (J4).


Comparative study of grooved conodont elements

Conodont elements.—The most common of the grooved conodont elements are those of the family Panderodontidae, known from the Early Ordovician to Middle Devonian; they all have spine-like elements with a very characteristic narrow, longitudinal groove. In the type genus Panderodus Ethington, 1959, the groove occurs in all elements of the apparatus and is situated on their lateral, usually flattened side (Figs. 1A, B, E, I, J, 2).

The groove begins slightly beneath the apex and runs along the entire length of the element. Cross sections of the elements show that the groove was formed by infolding of the concentric lamellae rather than by a separate system of radial lamellae (Fig. 2), as supposed earlier (Barnes et al. 1973). The grooved surface is usually delimited by sharp costae. Elements of Panderodus and closely related genera are strongly elongated, slightly arched, and usually sub-triangular in cross section. Most of them are longitudinally ridged or striated (Fig. 1A, I, J). Around the basal part of the element coarse ridges are usually developed (Fig. 1B, H, J).

Fig. 2.

Cross sections of the elements of Panderodus. A. Panderodus greenlandensis Armstrong, 1990, Early Silurian, Jädivere, Estonia; ZPAL C.19/137.1. Basal part (A1) and above the basal part (A2). B. Distal part of Panderodus sp., Middle Ordovician, borehole Deniski, eastern Poland; ZPAL C.19/19.5. Abbreviations: bb, basal body; bc, basal cavity; cr, crown; gr, groove.


Construction of the whole grasping apparatus of Panderodus is known from several natural assemblages, the most complete of which has been found in the Silurian deposits of Ukraine (Dzik and Drygant 1986; Fig. 3A). It is composed of thirteen elements differentiated mainly by size and degree of curvature. Arrangement of elements in the apparatus is not completely natural but is sufficient in order to note that originally it was very similar to the grasping apparatus of chaetognaths (Fig. 3B–D), although grasping spines of chaetognaths are organic in composition and have no grooves. Another well preserved assemblage of Panderodus elements occur in association with imprints of the animal soft body fragment (Smith et al. 1987).

Apart from the family Panderodontidae, there are several genera of conodonts assigned to different families also possessing long, conical and grooved elements: e.g., Dapsilodus Cooper, 1976 (Fig. 1F), Decoriconus Coper, 1975 (Fig. 1G), Colaptoconus Kennedy, 1994, Protopanderodus Lindström, 1971 (Fig. 1C, D), Striatodontus Ji and Barnes, 1994, Variabiloconus Landing, Barnes, and Stevens, 1986 (Fig. 1C, D, F, G). Their groove or grooves are wider than those of the panderodontids but also run almost along their whole length from the tip to the base and in the basal part become much wider. Most of the elements are also longitudinally striated. The grooves are usually delimited by sharp cutting edges. Although constructions of the whole feeding apparatuses of most of these conodonts are known only from statistical analyses of co-occurring elements, it is suggested that their apparatuses were very similar in construction to that of Panderodus. Their elements, however, were morphologically more differentiated (Sansom et al. 1994; Mellgren and Eriksson 2006). In the same apparatus some elements might have one or two grooves (Fig. 1D), while others have no groove at all. All genera are not necessarily closely related to one another nor with panderodontids, but the groove apparent in their elements is very characteristic. The groove is very deep and comparatively narrow. However, conodont elements grew by addition of new lamellae from the outside, and most probably only the outer, wider part of the groove was used for conduction of venom. In some other panderodontids, the groove is much wider, especially in their basal part. Generally, the groove of the earlier conodonts, such as the Ordovician Decoriconus, Parapanderodus or Striatodontus (Fig. 1G, H) was much wider than that of the later genera, like the Devonian Neopanderodus Ziegler and Lindström, 1971. There were also long-lived genera (Panderodus and Protopanderodus, for example) that were conservative in this respect. The groove was constructed by many growing lamellae. It must have occurred early in the ontogeny of the elements and likely had an important biological function. According to the hypothesis of Lindström and Ziegler (1971) the groove of panderodontids served for muscle attachment. However, in the early 1970s when their paper was published, many paleontologists were convinced that conodont elements were constantly embedded in soft tissue. Since then we have learned that at least some of them were partly exposed and could be used for grasping, biting or grinding food, thereby refuting, in this case, the presence of soft tissues such as a keratinous sheath (Bengtson 1976; Jeppson 1979; Purnell 1995; Donoghue and Purnell 1999; see also Fig. 1I, J which show wear at the tips of some elements). The supposition that they served only the muscles seems presently improbable. Besides, many other apparatuses of conodonts are constructed of similar, conical elements but have no grooves at all.

Fig. 3.

Grasping apparatuses of the conodont Panderodus and fossil and extant chaetognaths. A. Partly deformed apparatus of the Silurian conodont Panderodus unicostatus Branson and Mehl, 1933, Ukraine, Podolia; ZPAL C. 15/1 (same as Dzik and Drygant 1986: fig. 1, new photograph). B. Apparatus of the fossil chaetognath Phakelodus tenuis (Müller, 1959), subsurface Upper Cambrian of northern Poland; ZPAL C.4/6.2 (same as Szaniawski 1982: fig. 1, new photograph). C. Left half of the grasping spine apparatus of the extant chaetognath Sagitta sp., North Sea; ZPAL C.4/1.1. D. Head of the extant chaetognath Sagitta sp. with grasping spine apparatus in acting position, North Sea; ZPAL C.4/619.


Fig. 4.

Venomous teeth of some extant vertebrates. A. Fang from the lower jaw of the fish Meiacanthus grammistes (Valenciennes, 1836), family Blenniidae, Indonesia; ZPAL C. 19/153.2. B. Tooth from the lower jaw of the lizard Heloderma suspectum Cope, 1869, North America; ZPAL C. 19/165.1. C. Posterior maxillary tooth of the snake Psammophis cf. shokari Forskal, 1775, family Colubridae; ZPAL C.19/155.1, in dorsal (C1) and oblique (C2) views. D, E. Fangs of the snake Trimeresurus gramineus (Shaw, 1802), family Viperidae, India. 1 D. ZPAL C.19/164, Mature form in lateral view. E. ZPAL C.19/164.2, replacement fang of the same snake in oblique view.


Venom delivery structures of vertebrates.—Most of the venomous representatives of vertebrates use long, arched, coniform teeth or straight spines for envenomation (Halstead 1970a, b; Smith and Wheeler 2006; Jackson 2007). The teeth and spines usually have one or more longitudinal grooves or, in some cases, a central canal (Figs. 4, 5). Fangs of most of the venomous snakes (viperids and elapids) bear a canal that, from study of their early development stages, appears to have originated from grooved forms (Fig. 4E). This traditional opinion (see Kardong 1982) is consistent with recently published results of molecular and embryological studies of the origin and evolution of snake fangs (Vonk 2008).

Fig. 5.

Venom delivery structures of extant fish. A–C. Dorsal spines of Pterois volitans Linnaeus, 1758, family Scorpaenidae. A. Whole spine; ZPAL C.19/165.1. B. Distal portion of another spine, fractured to show cross-section; ZPAL C.19/165.2. C. Magnification of a fragment; ZPAL C.19/165.3. D. Anterior part of the lower jaw of Meiacanthus grammistes (Valenciennes), 1836, family Blenniidae, Indonesia; ZPAL C.19/2.1.


Structural comparison of grooved elements of conodonts with venomous teeth and spines of living and extinct vertebrates strongly suggest that the grooves were used for delivery of venom. Although grooved teeth do also occur in non-venomous vertebrates (especially among mammals, see Folinsbee et al. 2007; Orr et al. 2007), the groove of conodont elements are more similar to those of the typical venomous structures of colubrid snakes and helodermatid lizards, which are usually narrow, long and deep (Meier 1981; Nydam 2000; see also Fig. 4B, C). There are other arguments which lend support to the hypothesis—cutting edges or sharp ridges parallel to the grooves, in addition to the coarse ridges in their basal part (Fig. 1B, H, J), are common also in venomous fangs (Young and Kardong 1996; Beck 2005).

Although somewhat indirect, another argument supporting the venom hypothesis is the high degree of similarity between the Panderodus apparatus and the grasping apparatus of chaetognaths (Fig. 3). Although Sansom et al. (1994) pointed out some differences in structure of the apparatuses but did not question the earlier hypothesis of their similar function (Dzik and Drygant 1986). This similarity, probably the result of functional convergence, strongly suggests that apparatuses of the Panderodus-like conodonts, similarly to those of chaetognaths, were used for grasping. Extant chaetognaths paralyse their victims with toxins to facilitate their swallowing (Thuesen 1991). Such capability would undoubtedly also have been very useful for conodonts, so it is possible this apparatus functioned in the same way. Chaetognaths, commonly known as arrow worms, have been extremely conservative in evolution. Their paleontological record extends to the Early Cambrian and already at that time their grasping apparatus was very similar to the extant forms (Chen et al. 2002; Chen and Huang 2002; Hu et al. 2007). However the spines were usually considered as “protoconodonts” (see Szaniawski 1982, 2002). It is not known when some of chaetognaths first became venomous.

Short review of extant and fossil venomous vertebrates

Fish.—According to recent estimates, the number of extant species of bony fishes using toxins exceeds 1200, making up about 50% of all venomous vertebrates (Smith and Wheeler 2006). Most of them belong either to spiny-rayed fish (Acanthomorpha) or to catfish (Siluriformes). Most of the fishes use venom for defense. For envenomation they usually use fin spines with distinct longitudinal grooves (Fig. 5A–C).

However, there are also fish with “hollow” spines that inject venom in a similar way to fangs of most venomous snakes. Only one genus of small reef-associated fishes— Meiacanthus Norman, 1944, family Blenniidae—is known to possess specialized venomous canine teeth (Figs. 4A, 5D). The teeth are situated on both sides of the lower jaw, are very large, recurved, and deeply grooved. They are directly connected with glands that produce a toxic secretion. Biting combined with injection of the secretion take place when the venomous fish is already swallowed by a predator, and usually results in rejection of the fish alive (Fishelson 1974). This unique strategy of defense must be very efficient because some of the non-venomous blenniids developed mimicking similarity to the venomous forms (Randall 2005). Venomous fangs of fossil fish are not known but that is understandable if one takes into consideration that even the “sabre teeth” of the extant genus Meiacanthus were not recognized as venomous until monograph of Springer (1968).

Venomous representatives are common not only among bony fishes but also among the cartilaginous fishes. The venomous spike possessed by some sharks is situated in the dorsal fin and at the tail in rays and chimaeras. The spikes have one or two longitudinal grooves filled with soft tissue containing toxins. Compared to the bony fishes, the spines of cartilaginous fishes are usually shorter and stouter.

The oldest scales of fishes are known from the Late Cambrian (Smith et al. 2006). Scales of shark-like fishes are reported from the Late Ordovician (Sansom et al. 1996), but as their cartilaginous skeleton has very low fossilization potential, the oldest articulated shark is known only from the Early Devonian (Miller et al. 2003). Typical venomous spines are documented in the extinct elasmobranchs of genera known since the late Permian (Muir Evans 1923). Along the concave side of the fossil spines runs a median ridge with two wide grooves on each side. The spines are very similar to those of the extant venomous sharks and rays. Chondrichthans were extremely conservative in evolution and because of that it is quite probable that their venom capability originated even earlier than the Permian.

Reptiles.—About one-third of presently living species of reptiles produce toxins (Gans 1978). The most diversified and sophisticated venomous system is that of snakes. Two families of exclusively venomous snakes, Elapidae and Viperidae, have long frontal fangs (Fig. 4D) to conduct venom through a hollow tube and inject it under pressure. Early developmental forms, which are well represented by a series of replacement fangs, are more similar to grooved fangs: their orifice is strongly elongated and the whole tube is not completely enclosed (Fig. 4E). Venomous snakes of the family Colubridae retain an open and usually deep groove, or rarely two grooves, in both the functioning and the replacement fangs (Fig. 4C). Contrary to elapids and viperids the fangs are situated in the posterior part of the maxilla (opisthoglyph). The grooved fangs are evidently less efficient in delivery of venom and most of the venomous colubrid snakes are harmless to humans.

Until recently, apart from snakes, only two species of lizards were known among extant reptiles to be venomous—the only representatives of the primitive family Helodermatidae. Both of the species have numerous teeth and most of them are grooved. The teeth usually have two grooves, one much longer and deeper than the other (Fig. 4B). According to (Beck 2005:43) “Each groove is flanked by a cutting flange, which makes the tooth better adapted for piercing flesh …”. At the basal part of the teeth there is a series of short and shallow grooves. Similar cutting edges and basal grooves occur in some elements of the postulated venomous conodonts and in some fangs of the venomous snakes (Figs. 1B, H, J, 4D). Recently, members of two other lineages of lizards—iguanians and varanoids—have been recognized as venomous (Fry et al. 2006).

The oldest skeletal remains and tracks of reptiles (amniotans) are known from early in the Pennsylvania (Falcon-Lang et al. 2007), whereas the earliest known fossil reptile with a comparatively well documented venomous apparatus is the Upper Permian therocephalian therapsid Euchambersia mirabilis Broom, 1931 from the Karoo Basin in South Africa (Mendrez 1975). Preserved are not only the large grooved canine teeth, but also recesses in the maxilla, which, in extant venomous reptiles, house venom glands. Taking into account the paucity of the paleontological record of non-marine vertebrates, it seems probable that the venom delivery system of reptiles originated much earlier.

Isolated, laterally compressed reptilian teeth with serrated margins and deep longitudinal grooves on both lateral sides have been described from the Upper Triassic of Virginia and Arizona (Sues 1991, 1996). According to the author of the papers they show “Close similarities to the teeth of many carnivorous archosauromorph reptiles” that “possibly indicate affinities to that group” (Sues 1996: 571). From the Middle Jurassic of Mexico there is known a right lower jaw of a probably venomous sphenodontian (Reynoso 2005). The jaw has two anterior caniniform teeth with single groove on their anteromedial surface. Described from the Upper Cretaceous of Mongolia is an almost complete skull of the varanoid lizard Estesia mongoliensis (Norel et al. 1992). Its longitudinally grooved teeth are very similar to the venomous teeth of extant helodermatids. Fossil helodermatids are known from the late Eocene of France and possibly from the Late Cretaceous but certainly from the late Paleocene to Recent of North America (Pregil et al. 1986). The paleontological records and molecular investigations suggest that varanoids, iguanians, and snakes belong to the same clade originating in the Early Jurassic (Fry et al. 2006). According to the authors it seems probable that venom capabilities of the whole clade developed around the same time. However, the oldest well preserved fangs of snakes are known from the early Miocene of Germany. Some of them have structures indistinguishable from the fangs of modern viperids or elapids. This suggests that “… the evolution of the most efficient venom-delivery systems was already completed at the Oligocene—Miocene transition” (Kuch et al. 2006: 86).

Mammals.—Extant venomous mammals are not common. Some insectivores—a few species of shrews and two nearly extinct species of Solenodon—have poisonous saliva. The male duck-billed platypus, one of the 5 species of extant monotremes, has a venomous spur on its hind leg. However, across the gamut of mammals, well developed grooves for delivery of venom are known only in the second lower incisor of the Solenodon. The two groups of living mammals with venomous members (Soricomorpha and Monotremata) are regarded as being very primitive.

Paleontological records of venomous mammals are rare. Teeth with possible venom-conducting grooves are known in two species of shrews from the early Pleistocene of Spain (Cuenca-Bescós and Rofes 2007), and in the pantolestid Bisonalveus browni Gazin, 1956 as well as several undetermined isolated teeth from the late Paleocene of Canada (Fox and Scott 2005). It is not certain if they functioned for delivery of venom because grooved teeth are known also in non-venomous extant mammalian species (such as some primates; Orr et al. 2007, Folinsbee et al. 2007). Nevertheless, there are some convincing arguments that use of the salivary venom among extinct mammals was much more common (Cuenca-Bescós and Rofes 2007).

Fossilized mammalian spurs, similar to those of the platypus but not necessarily venomous, are known from the Lower Cretaceous of Montana and China (Jenkins and Schaff 1988; Hu et al. 1997). The basal component of the spur, the os calcaris, is known also from several Upper Cretaceous specimens of multituberculate mammals from Mongolia (Hurum et al. 2006). A very convincing hypothesis assumes that the extratarsal spur, such as the venomous spur of the duckbilled platypus is “a basic feature of Mammalia” (Hurum et al. 2006: 9).

Birds and amphibians.—Some extant amphibians and birds use toxic liquids for protection but probably never developed any special venom delivery system which could be fossilized (Dumbacher et al. 2000; Chen et al. 2003).


The main results of the paper can be stressed in the following conclusions:

  • Conical, grooved elements of conodont feeding apparatuses have structural features characteristic for venomconducting structures of living and fossil vertebrates. They appear to have functioned as grasping spines, similarly to those of chaetognaths.

  • In the early stage of conodont evolution, one or some of their lineages developed features consistent with the capability to produce and deliver venom. Based on the short review of the fossil and living venomous vertebrates, one can presume that this also happened during the early evolution of fishes, reptiles and probably mammals.

  • Conodonts with grooved elements are known from the Early Ordovician and were represented by many taxa until the Early Devonian. If the venom hypothesis proves to be correct they are therefore the earliest known venomous animals documented to date.


I thank the following institutions and persons who provided or helped in collecting specimens used in this study: Institute of Zoology, University of Wrocław (Poland), Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences (Białowieza, Poland), Wiesław Bednarczyk (Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland), Bartosz Borczyk (Institute of Zoology, University of Wrocław, Poland), Magdalena Borsuk-Białynicka and Krzysztof Małkowski (ZPAL), Daniel Drygant (State Museum of the Natural History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv, Ukraine), Peep Männik (Institute of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia) and Cezary Skatulski (Fokus, Warsaw, Poland). I also thank Kate Jackson (Department of Biology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington, USA), Ruth Mawson (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia), John Repetski (US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, USA), Magdalena Borsuk-Białynicka, Jerzy Dzik, and Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (ZPAL) for useful discussions and valuable comments to the manuscript. Warm thanks are also due for the reviewers, Stefan Bengtson (Department of Palaeozoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden), Walter Sweet (Ohio State University, Columbus, USA) and an anonymous reviewer, for important comments and corrections.


  1. R.J. Aldridge , D.E.G. Briggs , M. Smith, E.N.K. Clarkson , and N.D.L. Clark 1993. The anatomy of conodonts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 340: 405–421. doi:  10.1098/rstb.1993.0082  Google Scholar

  2. C.R. Barnes , D.B. Sass , and M.L.S. Poplawski 1973. Conodont ultrastructure: the family Panderodontidae. Life Science Contributions of the Royal Ontario Museum 90: 1–36. Google Scholar

  3. D.D. Beck 2005. Biology of Gila Monsters and Beaded Lizards. 207 pp. University of California Press, Berkeley. Google Scholar

  4. S. Bengtson 1976. The structure of some Middle Cambrian conodonts and the early evolution of conodont structure and function. Lethaia 9: 185–206. doi:  10.1111/j.1502-3931.1976.tb00966.x  Google Scholar

  5. D.E.G. Briggs , E.N.K. Clarkson , and R.J. Aldridge 1983. The conodont animal. Lethaia 16: 1–14. doi:  10.1111/j.1502-3931.1983.tb01139.x  Google Scholar

  6. P. Bultynck 2009. To be or not to be: can conodonts be vertebrates? In : P. Godefroit and O. Lambert (eds.), Darwin-Bernissart meeting, Brussels, February 9–13, 2009. Tribute to Charles Darwin and Bernissart iguanodons: new perspectives on vertebrate evolution and Early Cretaceous ecosystems—Programme, abstracts and field trips guidebook, 24. IRSNB, Brussels. Google Scholar

  7. J.-Y. Chen and D.-Y. Huang 2002. A possible Lower Cambrian chaetognath (arrow worm). Science 298: 187. doi:  10.1126/science.1075059 PMid: 12364798 Google Scholar

  8. L.-Z. Chen , H.-L. Luo , S.-X. Hu , J.-Y. Yin , Z.-W. Jiang , Z.-L. Wu , F. Li , and A.-L. Chen 2002. Early Cambrian Chengjiang Fauna in Eastern Yunnan, China [in Chinese]. 199 pp. Yunnan Science and Technology Press, Kunming. Google Scholar

  9. T. Chen , S. Farragher , A.J. Bjourson , D.F. Orr , P. Rao , and Ch. Schaw 2003. Granular gland transcriptomes in stimulated amphibian skin secretions. Biochemical Journal 371: 125–130. doi:  10.1042/BJ20021343 PMid: 12413397 PMCid: 1223249 Google Scholar

  10. G. Cuenca-Bescós and J. Rofes 2007. First evidence of poisonous shrews with an envenomation apparatus. Naturwissenschaften 94: 113–116. doi:  10.1007/s00114-006-0163-5 PMid: 17028888 Google Scholar

  11. P.C.J Donoghue , and M.A.P. Purnell 1999. Growth, function and the conodont fossil record. Geology 27: 251–254. doi: 10.1130/0091-7613(1999)027<0251:GFATCF>2.3.CO;2  Google Scholar

  12. P.C.J. Donoghue , P.L. Forey , and R.J. Aldridge 2000. Conodont affinity and chordate phylogeny. Biological Reviews 75: 191–251. doi:  10.1017/S0006323199005472 PMid:10881388 Google Scholar

  13. J.P. Dumbacher , T. Spande , and J.W. Daly 2000. Batrachotoxin alkaloids from passerine birds: A second toxic bird genus (Irrita kowaldi). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 97 (24): 12970–12975. doi:  10.1073/pnas.200346897  Google Scholar

  14. J. Dzik and D. Drygant 1986. The apparatus of panderodontid conodonts. Lethaia 19: 133–141. doi:  10.1111/j.1502-3931.1986.tb00723.x  Google Scholar

  15. H.J. Falcon-Lang , M.J. Benton , and M. Stimson 2007. Ecology of earliest reptiles inferred from basal Pennsylvanian trackways. Journal of the Geological Society, Logdon 164: 113–118. doi: 10.1144/0016-76492007-015  Google Scholar

  16. L. Fishelson 1974. Histology and ultrastructure of the recently found buccal toxic gland in the fish Meiacanthus nigrolineatus (Blennidae). Copeia 2: 386–392. doi:  10.2307/1442533  Google Scholar

  17. K.E. Folinsbee , J. Müller , and R.R. Reisz 2007. Canine grooves: Morphology, Function, and relevance to venom. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27: 547–551. doi: 10.1671/0272-4634(2007)27[547:CGMFAR]2.0.CO;2  Google Scholar

  18. R.C. Fox and C.S. Scott 2005. First evidence of a venom delivery apparatus in extinct mammals. Nature 435: 1091–1093. doi: 10.1038/nature03646 PMid: 15973406 Google Scholar

  19. B.G. Fry , N. Vidal , J.A. Norman , F.J. Vonk , H. Scheib , R.S.F. Ramjan , S. Kuruppu , K. Fung , B.S. Hedges W.C. Richardson , W.C. Hodgson , V. Ignjatovic , Summerhayes , and R. , E. Kochva 2006. Early evolution of the venom system in lizards and snakes. Nature 439: 584–588. doi: 10.1038/nature04328 PMid: 16292255 Google Scholar

  20. C. Gans 1978. Physiology B. In : C. Gans and K.A Gans (eds.), Biology of the Reptilia , Vol. 8, 1–42. Academic Press, London. Google Scholar

  21. R.W. Gess , M.I. Coates , and B.S. Rubidge 2006. A lamprey from the Devonian period of South Africa. Nature 443: 981–984. doi:  10.1038/nature05150 PMid: 17066033 Google Scholar

  22. B.V. Halstead 1970a. Poisonous and Venomous Marine Animals of the World, Vol. 2 Vertebrates. 1070 pp. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC. Google Scholar

  23. B.V. Halstead 1970b. Poisonous and Venomous Marine Animals of the World, Vol. 3 Vertebrates. 1006 pp. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC. Google Scholar

  24. S. Hu , M. Steiner , M. Zhu , B.-D. Erdtman , H. Luo , L. Chen , and B. Weber 2007. Diverse pelagic predators from Chengijang Lagerstätte and the establishment of modem-style pelagic ecosystems in the early Cambrian. Palaegeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 254: 307–316. doi:  10.1016/j.palaeo.2007.03.044  Google Scholar

  25. Y. Hu , Y. Wang , Z. Luo , and Ch. Li 1997. A new symmetrodont mammal from China and its implications for mammalian evolution. Nature 390: 137–142. doi:  10.1038/36505 PMid:9367151 Google Scholar

  26. J. Hurum , Z.-X. Luo , and Z. Kielan-Jaworowska 2006. Were mammals originally venomous? Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 51: 1–11. Google Scholar

  27. K. Jackson 2007. The evolution of venom-conducting fangs: insights from developmental biology. Toxicon 49: 975–981. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2007.01.007 PMid: 17337027 Google Scholar

  28. L. Jeppsson 1979. Conodont element function. Lethaia 12: 153–171. doi:  10.1111/j.1502-3931.1979.tb00994.x  Google Scholar

  29. F.A. Jenkins Jr. and C.R. Schaff 1988. The early Cretaceous mammal Gobiconodon (Mammalia Triconodonta) from the Cloverly Formation in Montana. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 8: 1–24. Google Scholar

  30. K.V. Kardong 1982. The evolution of the venom apparatus in snakes from colubrids to viperids and elapids. Memoires Instituto Butantan 46: 105–118. Google Scholar

  31. A.P. Kasatkina and G.I. Buryi 1997. Chaetodonta: a new animal superphylum and its position in animal systematics. Doklady Biological Sciences 356: 503–505. Google Scholar

  32. U. Kuch , J. Müller , C. Mödden , and D. Mebs 2006. Snake fangs from the Lower Miocene of Germany: evolutionary stability of perfect weapons. Naturwissenschaften 93: 84–87. doi: 10.1007/s00114-005-0065-y PMid: 16344981 Google Scholar

  33. M. Lindström and W. Ziegler 1971. Feinstrukturelle Untersuchungen an Conodonten 1. Die Überfamilie Panderodontacea. Geologica et Palaeontologica 5: 9–33. Google Scholar

  34. J.S. Mellgren and M.E. Eriksson 2006. Model of reconstruction for the oral apparatus of the Ordovician conodont genus Protopanderodus Lindström 1971. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Earth Sciences 97: 97–112. doi: 10.1017/S0263593300001425  Google Scholar

  35. J. Meier 1981. The fangs of Dispholidus typus Smith and Thelotornis kirtlandi Smits (Serpentes: Colubridae). Revue suisse de Zoolgie 88: 897–902. Google Scholar

  36. C. Mendrez 1975. Principales variations du palais chez les Thérocéphales sud-africains (Pristerosauria et Scaloposauria) au cours du Permien supérieur et du Trias inférieur. Problémes Actuels de Paléontologie — Évolution des Vertébrés, Coloques Internationaux de Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 218: 379–408. Google Scholar

  37. F. Miller , R. Cloutier , and S. Turner 2003, The oldest articulated chondrichthyan from the Early Devonian period. Nature 425: 501–504. doi:  10.1038/nature02001 PMid: 14523444 Google Scholar

  38. H. Muir Evans 1923. Spines of fishes, living and fossil, and the glandular structure in connection therewith, with observations on the nature of fish venoms. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 212: 1–31. doi:  10.1098/rstb.1924.0001  Google Scholar

  39. M.A. Norel , M.C. McKenna , and M.J. Novacek 1992. Estesia mongolensis, a new fossil varanoid from the Late Cretaceous Barun Goyot Formation of Mongolia. American Museum Novitates 3045: 1–24. Google Scholar

  40. R.L. Nydam 2000. A new taxon of helodermatid-like lizard from the Albian-Cenomanian of Utah. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 20: 285–294. doi:  10.1671/0272-4634(2000)020[0285:ANTOHL]2.0.CO;2  Google Scholar

  41. C.M. Orr , L.K. Delezene , J.E. Scott , W. Tocher , and G.T. Schwartz 2007. The comparative method and the inference of venom-delivery system in fossil mammals. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 27: 541–546. doi: 10.1671/0272-4634(2007)27[541:TCMATI]2.0.CO;2  Google Scholar

  42. C.H. Pander 1856. Monographie derfossillen Fische des Silurischen Systems der Russisch-Baltischen Gouvernements. Gouvernements. 91 pp. Akademie der Wissenschaften, St. Petersburg. Google Scholar

  43. G.K. Pregil , J.A Gauthier , and H.W. Greene 1986. The evolution of helodermatid squamates, with description of a new taxon and an overview of Varanoidea. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 21: 167–202. Google Scholar

  44. P.A. Pridmore , R.E. Barwick , and Nicoll R.S . 1997. Soft anatomy and the affinities of conodonts. Lethaia 29: 317–328. Google Scholar

  45. M.A. Purnell 1995. Microwear on conodonts elements and macrophagy in the first vertebrates. Nature 374: 798–800. doi: 10.1038/374798a0  Google Scholar

  46. J.E. Randall 2005. A review of mimicry in marine fishes. Zoological Studies 44: 299–328. Google Scholar

  47. V.H. Reynoso 2005. Possible evidence of a venom apparatus in a Middle Jurassic sphenodontian from the Huizachal red beds of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 25: 646–653. doi: 10.1671/0272-4634(2005)025[0646:PEOAVA]2.0.CO;2  Google Scholar

  48. J.I. Sansom , H.A. Armstrong , and M.P. Smith 1994. The apparatus architecture of Panderodus and its implications for coniform conodont classification. Palaeontology 37: 781–799. Google Scholar

  49. J.I. Sansom , M.M. Smith , and P.M. Smith 1996. Scales of thelodont and shark-like fishes from the Ordovician of Colorado. Nature 379: 628–630. doi: 10.1038/379628a0  Google Scholar

  50. M.P. Smith , D.E.G. Briggs , and R.J. Aldridge 1987. A conodont animal from the lower Silurian of Wisconsin, USA, and the apparatus architecture of panderodontid conodonts. In : R.J. Aldridge (ed.), Paleobiology of conodonts , 91–104, British Micropaleontological Society, Ellis Horwood, Chichester. Google Scholar

  51. M.P. Smith , I.J. Sansom , and J.E. Repetski 1996. Histology of the first fish. Nature 380: 702–704. doi: 10.1038/380702a0  Google Scholar

  52. W.L. Smith and T. Wheeler 2006. Venom evolution widespread in fishes: a phylogenetic road map for the bioprospecting of piscine venoms. Journal of Heredity 97: 206–217. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esj034 PMid: 16740627 Google Scholar

  53. V.G. Springer 1968. Osteology and classification of the fishes of the Family Blenniidae. Bulletin of the United States Natural History Museum 284: 1–83. Google Scholar

  54. W.C. Sweet 1988. The Conodonta: morphology, taxonomy, paleoecology, and evolutionary history of a long-extinct animal phylum. Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics 10: 1–212. Google Scholar

  55. H.-D. Sues 1991. Venom-conducting teeth in a Triassic reptile. Nature 351: 141–143. doi: 10.1038/351141a0  Google Scholar

  56. H.-D. Sues 1996. A reptilian tooth with apparent venom canals from the Chinale Group (Upper Triassic) of Arizona. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 571–572. Google Scholar

  57. H. Szaniawski 1982. Chaetognath grasping spines recognized among Cambrian protoconodonts. Journal of Paleontology 56: 806–810. Google Scholar

  58. H. Szaniawski 2002. New evidence for the protoconodont origin of chaetognaths. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 47: 405–419. Google Scholar

  59. H. Szaniawski 2005. Cambrian chaetognaths recognized in Burgess Shale fossils. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50: 1–8. Google Scholar

  60. H. Szaniawski 2006. Biological interpretation of the structure of Panderodontidae. In : M. Purnell , P. Donoghue , R. Aldridge , and J. Repetski (eds.), International Conodont Symposium 2006, Programme and Abstracts, 78. Leicester. Google Scholar

  61. E.V. Thuesen 1991. The tetrodotoxin venom of chaetognaths. In : Q. Bone , H. Kapp , and A.C. Pierrot-Bults (eds.), The Biology of Chaetognaths , 55–60. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Google Scholar

  62. F.J. Vonk , J.F. Admiraal , K. Jackson , R. Reshev , M.A.G. de Bakker , K. Vanderschoot , I. van den Berge , M. van Atten , E. Burgehout , A. Beck , P.J. Mitschin , E. Kochva F. Witte , B.G. Fry , A.E. Woods , and M.K. Richardson 2008. Evolutionary origin and development of snake fangs. Nature 454: 630–633. doi: 10.1038/nature07178 PMid:18668106 Google Scholar

  63. B. Young and K. Kardong 1996. Dentitional surface features in snakes (Reptilia: Serpentes). Amphibia-Reptilia 17: 261–276. doi:  10.1163/156853896X00432  Google Scholar

Hubert Szaniawski "The Earliest Known Venomous Animals Recognized Among Conodonts," Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54(4), (1 December 2009).
Received: 27 March 2009; Accepted: 1 October 2009; Published: 1 December 2009

Back to Top