Conodonts must be remarkably tough to survive a half-billion years without alteration. But how tough are they? Even a few seconds in an ultrasonic cleaner will shatter a conodont. Rough handling with a metal probe can occationally break one. Weathered debris are far more likely to contain broken elements than acid-treated solid rock. Although conodonts are amazingly durable, many elements commonly appear chipped and broken -- and it is rare for a large or complex element to remain intact. How much of the breakage occurs during handling and refining of rock sediments? To answer this question, a group of conodonts were subjected to a "torture test" to see how well they hold up to abuse.
The group above was refined from sediments by gently bobbing nested sives within warm, soapy water using the utmost care to minimize trauma. The sediment was dried and gently poured through a funnel into a sodium metatungstate, where the precipitate was gently filtered and dried with minimal exposure to turbulance or an air-fluid interface. 16 conodonts (above) were chosen from the resulting residue for the "torture test." Each was photographed, (above) and subjected to the following trearment:
1. Recombined with about 3 g of sediement, and boiled vigorously for
20 minutes, then rinsed in briskly running water. All conodonts were
recovered with no evident damage, although they were considerably cleaner.