Monday, March 21, 2016

Tully Monster Identified

In 1958, amateur fossil hunter Francis Tully discovered an odd looking fossil in the Mazon Creek fossil bed located in Illinois. Since its discovery, paleontologists had no idea how to classify the organism that dated back to around 300 million years ago.  However, a team of paleontologists based at Yale University recently published a study classifying the bizarre organism.
            A team led by Victoria McCoy and Derek Briggs analyzed a collection of 2,000 Tully Monsters located at the Field Museum of Natural History. Using new analytical techniques such as synchrotron elemental mapping, which maps the chemistry of a fossil to illuminate the organism’s physical features, the team discovered that the Tully Monster had gills and a notochord. These key features had not been previously identified and helped determine that the Tully Monster is part of the same lineage as modern lamprey. The one foot long creature also had teeth at the end of a trunk-like extension from its head as well as eyes that sat on either side of a rigid bar.

            Even with the creature’s classification there is still little known about the time span in which it lived. Scientists only have access to the small window dating back 300 million years and these fossils have only been found in this region in Illinois. Regardless, these new techniques may prove useful in identifying and classifying key features in ancestors of modern lineages that may help us better understand mechanisms of evolution.

Allen Currier (Group 1)
Yale University. (2016, March 16). Solving the mystery of the Tully Monster.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2016 from


  1. I'm actually really excited about this. A lot of arguments that come up up in the religion vs science debate is the inaccuracy of our present day techniques to identify age. Which I think are solid, but not everyone is so sure. It's cool to see other techniques being developed and used to find species such as this. I hope they can continue to be developed indefinitely.

    comment by Nick Michienzi

  2. It's amazing that we find new organisms, whether alive or extinct, so often. How many more species may be out there still waiting to be uncovered? it shows just how diverse the Earth is and how different environments can give rise to unique species. Evolution has created so many different forms of life and the amount of organisms on the planet shows it's power.

    - Chris Richard

  3. It is exciting that is has been discovered after its extinction. Its physical appearance is amazing too. With the development of new techniques,not only new organisms are being identified, but also you can map genes and go back many years ago to find ancestors, origin and history of diseases and try to treat them.

    Mohammed Saleh

  4. Mohammed you bring up a good point about looking into the past to map genes. Not only does that help us better understand the evolution of genes themselves, but like you said these genes could prove useful in future treatment methods.

    Allen Currier

  5. Chris I completely agree with you. The world still has so much to offer and there's a common misconception that outer space is the last frontier. However, as seen time after time, new species and phenomena are discovered constantly and it's exciting to think what will be discovered in our lifetimes.

    Allen Currier

  6. I was just reading an article earlier about howe they just found this fish that used to live millions of years ago that could be the missing link of how sea animals evolved to walking/moving around on land! Super cool stuff, it's amazing were still finding new fossils and lineage connections today, with all the new technologies and techniques being developed I can only imagine what we will find!
    -Kelsey Morrison