An artist's impression of what the creature might have looked like. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5 Apokryltaros
This outlandish prehistoric creature had left scientists scratching their heads for over 50 years.
Known as the Tully Monster after collector Francis Tully who originally discovered its remains back in 1958, this peculiar prehistoric denizen, which lived 307 million years ago in a coastal estuary in what is now northeastern Illinois, has remained notoriously difficult to classify for over five decades.
With a long torpedo-shaped body and two eyes set at either end of a horizontal bar attached to its face, the creature's bizarre appearance was unlike anything else known to science. It even had a long trunk-like snout protruding from its head with a teeth-filled claw attached to the end of it.
"I would rank the Tully Monster just about at the top of the scale of weirdness," said paleontologist Victoria McCoy of Britain's University of Leicester.
Now however, over half a century since it was first discovered, researchers have finally been able to determine which family of creatures this bizarre specimen actually belonged to.
"I've always loved detective work, and in paleontology it doesn't get much better than this," said James Lamsdell of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
"Our re-study of the specimens has shown that it is a very strange lamprey, a group of eel-like vertebrates that live in rivers and seas today."