Researchers have studied the fossils of a bizarre creature known as the Tully Monster that flourished around 307 million of years ago in a coastal estuary what is now northeastern Illinois. The study results have been published in March 17 issue of journal Nature.
After studying a number of fossils of the creature named Tullimonstrum gregarium, researchers determined that it was not a segmented worm as it was considered but a type of jawless fish known as a lamprey.
Paleontologist Victoria McCoy of Britain’s University of Leicester explained that Tully Monster had a torpedo-shaped body, a jointed, trunk-like snout ending in a claw-like structure fitted with two rows of conical teeth and eyes were set on ends of long rigid bar extending sideways from the head.
Its length was around 14 inches and had a vertical tail fin and a long, narrow dorsal fin. From the assessment, it has been found that the creature was a vertebrate with gills and stiffened rod, which acted as a rudimentary spinal cord and supported its body.
Study’s co-researcher James Lamsdell, a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said that their study has shown that the creature was a strange lamprey. Tully Monster shared its shallow marine environment with fish including sharks, jellyfish, shrimp, amphibians and horseshoe crabs.
McCoy said that the creature is known as the Tully Monster in the honor of amateur fossil-hunter Francis Tully, who was the one to first spot it in Illinois coal-mining pits in 1958 and brought the Tully Monster to experts at the Field Museum in Chicago.
Field Museum paleontologist Scott Lidgard said that the results have blown away his mind. To eat the prey, the creature would have grasped it with its snout and then scraped food off with its tongue. For now, it is not known what it ate.