Does the mysterious ‘Tully Monster’ finally have a family?

Mar 22, 2016

Photo credit: Sean McMahon/Yale

By Rachel Feltman

The Tully Monster is a fascinating animal – and not just because of its name. It’s one of the most enigmatic specimens ever found, which is a nice way of saying it’s a total oddball that’s left scientists scratching their heads.

And now, half a century after its discovery, researchers claim to have found the creature’s place in the tree of life. It may not have a family, taxonomically speaking, but it could finally have a phylum. According to new analysis of a body structure previously assumed to be the gut, the strange blob of a creature is actually a vertebrate in disguise – a relative of modern lampreys, or eel-like toothed fish.

“There are plenty of fossils that are really enigmatic, but the Tully Monster has always been kind of in a class of its own,” Yale University’s Victoria McCoy, lead author on the study published Wednesday in Nature, told The Post.

When the first Tullimonstrum gregarium fossil was uncovered by Francis Tully in 1958, the amateur fossil-hunter wasn’t sure what the strange Illinois native might be. Even when professional paleontologists examined the specimen, they were puzzled. That’s not so unusual, but it is for a fossil of T. gregarium‘s age: At just 300 million years old or so, it’s from a time when lots of more familiar creatures lived. Scientists are generally able to sort newly discovered animals from this era into previously defined categories. But the researchers who studied Tully’s “monster” took nearly a decade to publish their first official description of it.


Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/03/16/does-the-mysterious-tully-monster-finally-have-a-family/

8 comments on “Does the mysterious ‘Tully Monster’ finally have a family?

  • cbrown #1
    Mar 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    “Animals” is not a family, it is a kingdom.

    @OP: It may not have a family, taxonomically speaking, but it could finally have a phylum. According to new analysis of a body structure previously assumed to be the gut, the strange blob of a creature is actually a vertebrate in disguise – a relative of modern lampreys, or eel-like toothed fish.

    http://anthro.palomar.edu/animal/animal_4.htm
    The subphylum Vertebrata includes all of the familiar large animals and some rare and unusual ones as well. The 7 living classes of vertebrates are distinguished mostly on the basis of their skeletal system, general environmental adaptation, and reproductive system.

    Three of the vertebrate classes are fish. The most primitive of these is Agnatha. It consists of jawless fish that do not have scales. These are the lampreys and hagfish.

    I think the author is commenting on failure to achieve detail in order to classify to the lower rank of “family”, being only to give phylum, (a classification gap), genus, and species.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_%28biology%29



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  • cbrown #4
    Mar 24, 2016 at 1:22 pm – 2

    @OP It may not have a family, taxonomically speaking, but it could finally have a phylum.

    How about a kingdom?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_%28biology%29

    Domain – Eukaryota

    Kingdom – (Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista and Monera)

    It is put in the phylum “Vertebrates” (separate from the phylum “Invertebrates”) below Kingdom Animalia.

    Then the classification of relationships is unclear until we reach genus and species!



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  • @ #3

    Environment.

    So glad you inquired, had no idea it is the state fossil!

    Also, glacier placement / movement explains Illinois’ flatness, save Shawnee National Forest, southern part of state.



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  • cbrown #7
    Mar 25, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Vertebrata is a subphylum of the phylum Chordata, and the invertebrates do not have a formal classification status as such.

    Yes.
    .#5 is an oversimplification. #2 gives more details and specifies subphylum for Vertebrata.

    genus;- Tullimonstrum

    species:- gregarium



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