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'Tully monster' mystery continues to endure

February 20, 2017 | Comment icon 19 comments

What type of creature could this possibly be ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Nobu Tamura
A peculiar prehistoric discovery has left scientists scratching their heads for more than five decades.
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 more than 50 years.

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.

Back in March 2016, researchers thought that they had finally solved the mystery by categorising the creature as a type of lamprey, but now a group of paleobiologists led by Lauren Sallan of the University of Pennsylvania have come forward to claim that the previous study got it wrong.

"This animal doesn't fit easy classification because it's so weird," said Sallan. "It has these eyes that are on stalks and it has this pincer at the end of a long proboscis and there's even disagreement about which way is up. But the last thing that the Tully monster could be is a fish."
According to a new report, the original team's conclusions were wrong because they did not fully understand the way in which the fossil specimen had been preserved.

The creature also did not resemble the fossils of actual lampreys discovered in the same area.

"It's important to incorporate all lines of evidence when considering enigmatic fossils: anatomical, preservational and comparative," said study co-author Sam Giles.

"Applying that standard to the Tully monster argues strongly against a vertebrate identity."

Source: | Comments (19)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by Four Winds 5 years ago
That is peculiar.
Comment icon #11 Posted by seeder 5 years ago
First time Ive ever heard of it!! Its bizarre indeed† From the image I thought its head was on the end of that....thing... but no! †
Comment icon #12 Posted by Tatetopa 5 years ago
I remember reading about it in college about ten or so years after it was discovered. Back then lamprey was the preferred explanation. †The fossils are pretty old I believe, Late Carboniferous. †I think there was more than one specimen in the find. †They are as someone said about a foot long, a monster in physiology†rather than size. Pure speculation on my part, what if this is a immature or larval form? †Maybe of a marine worm? Can you imagine a 10 foot specimen, and now picture it in inland lakes with riverine connections to the sea? †Loch Ness? † A fully aquatic form of "Monster" makes a lo... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by Carnoferox 5 years ago
The Tully Monster is actually fully grown. It is known from literally thousands of specimens, ranging from 3 to 14 inches in length, so a 10 foot long (or larger) one would be impossible. There is also no fossil record to indicate its survival past the Carboniferous, and its range seems to have been limited to Mazon Creek (not being found in other contemporaneous deposits). Additionally, it is only known from the marine Essex fauna of Mazon Creek, but the brackish/freshwater Braidwood fauna.†All in all the Tully Monster is†a very poor candidate for Nessie.
Comment icon #14 Posted by oldrover 5 years ago
I don't think it's plausible, but I'd love it to be true. Not much could make the LNM interesting to me, but you have managed it.†
Comment icon #15 Posted by geraldnewfie 5 years ago
just an Alien species roaming earth
Comment icon #16 Posted by Tatetopa 5 years ago
Well probably so, but impossible is an awfully final word. †Did it have precursors or antecedents, or is it just a singular creature with no connections to other lineages? †I'm not a LNM fan, but doesn't an aquatic creature at least make more sense than a plesiosaur?† Not to test your patience, but how do you know its fully grown? †Are there not more than a few creatures whose larvae and fry are estuarine † while adult forms become pelagic or benthic?†
Comment icon #17 Posted by seeder 5 years ago
† the hammerhead has eyes on stalks, sort of......† but Im not claiming anything
Comment icon #18 Posted by Carnoferox 5 years ago
The Tully Monster is pretty unique, and as of yet doesn't have any close known relatives living or extinct. There are thousands of Tully Monster specimens, showing a growth series from small†to large, with the largest only being around a foot long (a far, far cry from the 20+ feet reported of the monster). If there was an adult version of the Tully Monster that lived in freshwater, then it should have been found in the freshwater Braidwood fauna of Mazon Creek; however, Tully Monsters are only known from the marine Essex fauna. The Tully Monster doesn't even resemble the LNM that much, lacking... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Carnoferox 5 years ago
The Tully Monster is some kind of invertebrate, so not a close relative of sharks.

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