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Any of numerous hemichordates of the class Graptolithina. Graptolites form colonies consisting of interlocked cuplike chambers arranged in one or more branches and covered by an exoskeleton. They flourished from the late Cambrian to the early Mississippian Period, and were thought to be extinct until 1992 when scientists discovered what is believed to be a living species. Graptolites are important index fossils used to date the rocks of the Silurian and Ordovician Periods.