Mysterious 'Tully monster' is a vertebrate, research finds

March 16, 2016
Solving the mystery of the Tully Monster
A reconstruction of the Tully Monster as it would have looked 300 million years ago. Credit: Sean McMahon/Yale University

The Tully Monster, an oddly configured sea creature with teeth at the end of a narrow, trunk-like extension of its head and eyes that perch on either side of a long, rigid bar, has finally been identified.

A Yale-led team of paleontologists has determined that the 300-million-year-old animal—which grew to only a foot long—was a vertebrate, with gills and a stiffened rod (or notochord) that supported its body. It is part of the same lineage as the modern lamprey."I was first intrigued by the mystery of the Tully Monster. With all of the exceptional fossils, we had a very clear picture of what it looked like, but no clear picture of what it was," said Victoria McCoy, lead author of a new study in the journal Nature. McCoy conducted her research as a Yale graduate student and is now at the University of Leicester.

For decades, the Tully Monster has been one of the great fossil enigmas: It was discovered in 1958, first described scientifically in 1966, yet never definitively identified even to the level of phylum (that is, to one of the major groups of animals). Officially known as Tullimonstrum gregarium, it is named after Francis Tully, the amateur fossil hunter who came across it in coal mining pits in northeastern Illinois.

Holotype (species-defining) fossil of Tullimonstrum gregarium, the Tully Monster. This specimen has the best preservation of morphological features, including muscle segments in the body, the eye bar, the tail fin, and the proboscis and jaw folded back over the body. Credit: Paul Mayer at the Field Museum of Natural History

Thousands of Tully Monsters eventually were found at the site, embedded in concretions—masses of hard rock that formed around the Tully Monsters as they fossilized. Tully donated many of his specimens to the Field Museum of Natural History, which collaborated on the Nature study along with Argonne National Laboratory and the American Museum of Natural History.

The Tully Monster has taken on celebrity status in Illinois. It became the state fossil in 1989, and more recently, U-Haul trucks and trailers in Illinois began featuring an image of a Tully Monster.

"Basically, nobody knew what it was," said Derek Briggs, Yale's G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor of Geology and Geophysics, curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and co-author of the study. "The fossils are not easy to interpret, and they vary quite a bit. Some people thought it might be this bizarre, swimming mollusk. We decided to throw every possible analytical technique at it."

Using the Field Museum's collection of 2,000 Tully Monster specimens, the team analyzed the morphology and preservation of various features of the animal. Powerful, new analytical techniques also were brought to bear, such as synchrotron elemental mapping, which illuminates an animal's physical features by mapping the chemistry within a fossil.

The researchers concluded that the Tully Monster had gills and a notochord, which functioned as a rudimentary spinal cord. Neither feature had been identified in the animal previously.

"It's so different from its modern relatives that we don't know much about how it lived," McCoy said. "It has big eyes and lots of teeth, so it was probably a predator."

Some key questions about Tully Monsters remain unanswered, however. No one knows when the animal first appeared on Earth or when it went extinct. Its existence in the fossil record is confined to the Illinois mining site, dating back 300 million years.

"We only have this little window," Briggs said.

Explore further: UA medical students work with Google Glass

More information: The Tully Monster is a vertebrate, Nature, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature16992

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FredJose
1.4 / 5 (16) Mar 16, 2016
One has to question the age assigned to this fossil. Did the researchers do C14 analysis to determine if measurable quantities remained and if so what was the outcome? Did they reject the presence of C14 as being contamination or rework?
If they did NOT do C14 analysis, how was that omission justified since this is clearly an organic organism which should routinely be tested for C14 content.
Did they do C14 analysis of the surrounding coal and rock in which this creature got fossilized? If not, why not since the coal might well have been from plants which didn't die so long ago.
Thousands of Tully Monsters eventually were found at the site, embedded in concretions—masses of hard rock that formed around the Tully Monsters as they fossilized.

This means they died together in the same colossal sand dumped watery grave that formed their tomb, with enough minerals to fossilize them in situ when the water drained away soon after.
abecedarian
4.8 / 5 (16) Mar 16, 2016
Someone, somewhere dated the fossils or the surrounding rock and arrived at ~300 million years old. This is several orders of magnitude larger than the time-scales radiocarbon dating can reliably resolve.
Vietvet
3.8 / 5 (14) Mar 16, 2016
Someone, somewhere dated the fossils or the surrounding rock and arrived at ~300 million years old. This is several orders of magnitude larger than the time-scales radiocarbon dating can reliably resolve.


That's okay. FredJose only talks through his creationist ignorant ass anyway.
Lex Talonis
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 16, 2016
There were the foot prints of jesus the flying zombie jew in the sand as well, proving that the fossils were less than 2000 years old. He has obviously dropped out of low earth orbit and punished them for their iniquity as manifestations off satan, by imprisoning them in rocks for ever.

Christ the baby lamb, is living proof that that bible is a scientific fact based text - upon which all scientists rely upon when proving that the world is only 7122 years old since god made it.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
4.4 / 5 (13) Mar 16, 2016
What a coincidence, I was just thinking of creationists when I saw this.

"Forty years ago, the fossil record seemed to be replete with 'problematic' fossils," says Smith, who worked on Hallucigenia. "One by one, these have been brought into the fold and found places on the tree of life.""

[ ]http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/03/solving-the-mystery-of-the-tully-monster/473823/ ]

Of course that would make creationists cry, yet another gap-for-gods gone! We have two (?) crybabies here already. =D
Shootist
4.9 / 5 (12) Mar 16, 2016
One has to question the age assigned to this fossil. Did the researchers do C14 analysis


Hey chum, Carbon 14 dating is only good to about 50,000 years ago. This critter dates to 300,000,000 years ago. so, no, no carbon 14 dating (would be a waste of scarce resources as this fossil is so old as to have no organics left to test).
Zorcon
3 / 5 (9) Mar 16, 2016
One has to question the age assigned to this fossil. Did the researchers do C14 analysis to determine if measurable quantities remained and if so what was the outcome? Did they reject the presence of C14 as being contamination or rework?
If they did NOT do C14 analysis, how was that omission justified since this is clearly an organic organism which should routinely be tested for C14 content.
Did they do C14 analysis of the surrounding coal and rock in which this creature got fossilized? If not, why not since the coal might well have been from plants which didn't die so long ago.


LOL, the half-life of carbon 14 is 5,730 years.

If your fairy tale were true, Satan would have had to remove every trace of C14 from every coal deposit in the world at the same time he was making fossils. Otherwise somebody would have caught on long ago.

Occam's Razor tells us it's far more likely the coal deposits were created 300 million years ago by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
AnnoyingAtheist
3.4 / 5 (14) Mar 17, 2016
One has to question the age assigned to this fossil. Did the researchers do C14 analysis to determine if measurable quantities remained and if so what was the outcome?

Why would they? The could do any one of a number of other methods that are more likely to yield a valid result. At any rate, after 300Ma, there wouldn't be a detectable amount of C14 regardless. N14, C12, okay. Not C14.
Did they do C14 analysis of the surrounding coal and rock in which this creature got fossilized? If not, why not since the coal might well have been from plants which didn't die so long ago.

Coal requires heat, pressure, and loads of time to make, and a 6,000 y/o Earth isn't nearly old enough to make that work.
This means they died together in the same colossal sand dumped watery grave that formed their tomb, with enough minerals to fossilize them in situ when the water drained away soon after

Nice attempt to invoke the flood. Your argument is invalid, and your Fail is Epic.
AnnoyingAtheist
3.6 / 5 (14) Mar 17, 2016
One has to question the age assigned to this fossil. Did the researchers do C14 analysis to determine if measurable quantities remained and if so what was the outcome?

Why would they? The could do any one of a number of other methods that are more likely to yield a valid result. At any rate, after 300Ma, there wouldn't be a detectable amount of C14 regardless. N14, C12, okay. Not C14.


One more thing of note: One doesn't radiocarbon date sea life anyway, as it's based on atmospheric C14 consumed by the organism. Doesn't work so well underwater, and since these are clearly aquatic, they wouldn't even consider C14 dating, because it's know to be inaccurate in that initial environment.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (5) Mar 17, 2016
@AA: Good point! Actually the biosphere carbon is part of the same cycle above and under water, but there is a complication known as the Marine Radiocarbon Reservoir Effect.

"Theoretically, the radiocarbon concentration in the atmosphere is the same in oceans and the biosphere through equilibrium.

Due to marine reservoir effect, the radiocarbon content of terrestrial organisms is not the same as marine organisms."

It can be corrected for, apparently:

"Marine reservoir effect correction factors for different oceans in the world have been established and recorded in a database.

Mollusk shells are the species that have been radiocarbon dated the most."

[ http://www.radioc...fect.htm ]

[ctd]
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2016
But this is irrelevant because the fossils are too old to be radiocarbon dated. Hence they date the sediments (and have to ensure the fossils are deposited in situ).

300 Myrs old rocks should be argon-argon dated for best precision, I guess. [ https://en.wikipe...n_dating ]
katesisco
5 / 5 (1) Mar 17, 2016
I thought that whatever provoked the Burgess Shale group had a second wind so to speak.
OdinsAcolyte
not rated yet Mar 18, 2016
Old as the stone in which they were found.
It's OK. Jesus was still cool.
OdinsAcolyte
not rated yet Mar 18, 2016
Old as the stone in which they were found.
It's OK. Jesus was still cool.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2016
Who knows what jesus was? The Romans took a myth and distorted it beyond recognition, cobbling together previous godman iterations, pagan polytheism, and sociopolitical engineering, resulting in a softspoken, longhaired, robe-wearing lovegod who traveled around with his all-male entourage, a token harlot, and his mum... who was the only woman ever to give birth without being sullied by the touch of a man.

It was well-known that homosexuals made the best priests and nuns. They were problematic in cultures geared toward maximum reproduction, and would relish the cloistered lifestyle where they could live as they wanted.

And they could be trusted to keep church secrets along with the truth of their own natures.

I suppose some would find jesus cool. Celibacy is relative, yes? Easier than maintaining a sham marriage.

And their book vilifies perhaps romes greatest enemy, the jew, who originally codified the amazing formula for outgrowing and overrunning their enemies.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2016
Designer gods are always the most useful. And without gods there would still be gods, so it behooves the People in Power to create gods which would serve Them and not the other way around.

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