Mystery of the Tully monster solved

Scientists have solved the mystery of the “Tully monster” — a bizarre pre-historic animal found by, and named after, an amateur fossil collector Francis Tully in 1958.  It apparently looked like something out of science fiction, with its eyes on a stalks and a snout. And it turned out to be one more of the ‘weird wonders’ that scientists could figure out what to make of? Was it, for example, a worm or shell-less snail or some other form of an invertebrate?

Tully monsters — Tullimonstrum gregarium — lived in Illinois 307 million years ago . For long, these strange-looking aquatic animals with foot-long  tube-shaped bodies,eyes at the end of stalks, and skinny snouts ending in a tooted jaw, were considered invertebrates.

Tully monster

Holotype of fossil of Tully monster, Tullimonstrum gregarium. Image Credit: Paul Mayer, The Field Museum

Now Field Museum scientists and colleagues at Yale, Argonne National Laboratory, and the American Museum of Natural History, report in the journal Nature that are vertebrates, akin to jawless fish like lampreys. These modern-day jawless fishes have a unique combo  of traits, including primitive gills, rows of teeth, and traces of a notochord, the flexible rod-like structure along the back that’s present in chordate animals–including vertebrates like us, a release quoting Field Museum’s  Paul Mayer says.

 

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