Prehistoric Tully Monster Mystery Solved: Illinois Fossil A Vertebrate

Posted: Mar 17 2016, 5:10am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 17 2016, 5:33am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Tully Monster Mystery Solved: Illinois Fossil is a Vertebrate
Illinois State Museum Tully Monster Specimen
  • Enigma of the Tully Monster finally Out in the Open

The enigma of the Tully Monster is finally out in the open. It seems to have been amicably solved.

Ever since the year 1958, when Frank Tully stumbled upon a bizarre fossil, paleontologists have been left in a confused state as to what the creature really is.

Termed the Tully Monster, or Tullimonstrum gregarium, this animal could not be classified. It refused to fit any of the categories employed by biology. This animal dates back to the Paleozoic Era and its samples can be found in the fossil beds in Illinois. 

Although it is not as ancient as the Pre-Cambrian creatures, it does bear an uncanny resemblance to them. This critter has a tube-shaped body that ends in a thin snout.

At the end of the snout lie teeth. The eyes are located on stalks and its rear end has fins on it. The researchers had thought this creature was a worm or snail of sorts.

A team of experts have studied it in detail and they have reached the conclusion that such is hardly the case. This creature is in fact a sort of jawless fish with the same evolutionary history as the lampreys today. 

Thanks to digitization, this discovery was made faster than usual. A vast array of fossils of these strange animals were scanned and searched by the scientists.

The result was that after extensive examination, the creature was finally pinned down in the context of the classification system. Digitization allowed for an intensive combing through the various fossils.

The Tully Monster had a unique combination of characteristic and body parts. It had rudimentary gills, sharp teeth in a row and a notochord, which chordates normally have.

When you see a lamprey today, you get a pretty good idea of why this creature is called the Tully Monster. The word “monster” is very appropriate for both lampreys and this critter.    

The sucker-like mouth with rows of teeth are not a very beautiful thing to gaze at. It is downright ugly and may well be called monstrous. The only difference is that in case of lampreys, there is no tapering of the snout and their eyes are not perched on stalks.

There is still a gap in our knowledge and so more studies need to be conducted on the fossils found in Illinois. The state took up this special creature as its official fossil in 1989. It is indeed a strange and weird fossil that manages to pique the imagination of every fifth grader. 

The findings of this study were published this week in the journal Nature.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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