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Identity of ‘Tully monster’ still a mystery

New study debunks idea that oddball aquatic creature was a vertebrate

By
7:00am, March 6, 2017
illustration of Tully monster

MONSTER MYSTERY  The Tully monster (illustrated) was an aquatic creature that lived about 300 million years ago. Its strange features have made it difficult to classify, but new research suggests that it wasn’t a vertebrate.

The true nature of the “Tully monster” may once again be a mystery.

Just last year, some researchers declared that the extinct aquatic animal was a vertebrate, possibly a relative of today’s lampreys. Not so fast, says vertebrate paleontologist Lauren Sallan. Like a mismatched puzzle, the Tully monster lacks some vertebrate pieces and has others that are the wrong shape, Sallan and colleagues report in the March issue of Palaeontology.

Tullimonstrum gregarium didn’t get its monstrous name because of its size. Only about a foot long, the oddball creature, which lived about 300 million years ago, sported wide-set eyes like a hammerhead shark and a pincerlike mouth at the end of a long trunk. In the past, it’s been lumped in with everything from sea slugs to arthropods.

Most recently, in a paper published in Nature in 2016,

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