Changes in the color of conodonts have long been used to assess thermal maturity. Color is a subjective measure, and color changes in conodonts are related to a subjective scale, the conodont alteration index or CAI. In this paper, we propose a simple, nondestructive method for objectively determining CAI and relating CAI to thermal maturity, the spectral reflectance of conodonts (SRC). The diffuse reflectance of about 30 large conodont fragments arranged on a barium-sulfate slide was determined with a total reflectance spectrophotometer in the wavelength range of 300-850 nm. By examining conodonts that ranged from a CAI of 1 to a CAI of 6 we found that the average slope of the reflectance curve from 550 to 800 nm is a good proxy for CAI. A second-order regression equation estimates CAI from this slope with high accuracy (correlation coefficient = 0.99). These estimates appear most accurate for a CAI of 1 to a CAI of 4, where the slopes change most rapidly, but give reasonable results up to a CAI of 6. Based on the results of our analysis of two samples with known thermal maturities from the Valles Caldera region of New Mexico, we propose a preliminary relationship among SRC slope, CAI, and in-situ alteration temperature.

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