For over half a century, scientists have scratched their heads over the bizarre nature of a strange creature known as the Tully monster that flourished around 307 million years ago in a coastal estuary in what is now northeastern Illinois.
However, researchers said Wednesday they have finally solved the mystery.
numerous fossils of the creature, called Tullimonstrum gregarium analyzed and determined it was not a segmented worm or slug swimming freely, as once hypothesized, but rather a type of jawless fish called a lamprey.
“I rate the Tully monster almost at the top of the scale of rarity,” McCoy said paleontologist Victoria of Britain’s University of Leicester, who led the study while at the University of Yale.
It had a body shaped torpedo, an articulated snout horn ends in a structure shaped studded claw with two rows of conical teeth, and his eyes were fixed on the ends of a long bar extending sideways rigid head. To about 14 inches (35 cm) long, which had a vertical tail fin and a long narrow dorsal fin.
A sophisticated reassessment of fossil determined that it was a vertebrate with gills and a reinforced rod, or notochord, which functioned as a rudimentary spinal cord and leaned his body. Notochord had previously been identified as the intestine.
“I’ve always liked detective work, and paleontology that there is nothing better than this,” said paleontologist James Lamsdell the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “Our re-study of samples has shown that a very strange lamprey, a group of like eel living in rivers and seas today vertebrates.”
Tullimonstrum shared his shallow marine environment with fish, including sharks and jellyfish, shrimp, horseshoe crabs and amphibians.
“It feeds to grab things with his trunk (trunk) and removing a bit with his tongue. We do not know what you ate or if it was a predator or scavenger,” McCoy said.
Tully monster is called in honor of amateur fossil hunter Francis Tully, who first found in coal extraction wells of Illinois in 1958 and took it to the experts at the Field Museum of Chicago.
“This puzzle has been gnawing at paleontologists,” said Field Museum paleontologist Scott Lidgard, whose museum has 1,800 copies of Tullimonstrum, the official state fossil of Illinois. “I was impressed when the results started coming.”
The research was published in the journal Nature.