The Conodont Alteration Index (CAI) is used to estimate the maximum temperature reached by a sedimentary rock using thermal alteration of conodont fossils. Conodonts in fossiliferous carbonates are prepared by dissolving the matrix with acid, since the conodonts are composed of apatite and thus do not dissolve. The fossils are then compared to the index under a microscope.
The CAI ranges from 1 to 6, as follows:
The CAI is commonly used by paleontologists due to its ease of measurement and the abundance of Conodonta throughout marine carbonates of the Paleozoic. However, the organism disappears from the fossil record after the Triassic period, so the CAI is not available to analyze rocks younger than . Additionally, the index can be positively skewed in regions of hydrothermal alteration.