June 16, 2024

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The Tully Monster puzzle will not be solved

For a creature that erupts with accusations of being “problematic” and a “monster,” Tully’s monster was actually quite amusing. Its body was long and smooth like a ripe cucumber, tapering into a spade-shaped fin at its rear end. At the front end of the creature, where one might expect a head, its body instead tapers into an appendage not unlike an elephant’s trunk and tipped with serrated pincers. And as a final, tantalizing decoration, two eyes perch on either end of a horizontal leg above the creature like a strange oar.

This 300-million-year-old creature has been mysterious since it was discovered decades ago. It’s an animal with no obvious ancestors or descendants, a living being that would seem out of place in any setting, age, or, well, situation. It’s the kind of fossil that makes me wonder if, one day, it might be revealed as a hoax. The creature’s snout resembles an even neck convinced a Loch Ness truther states that Tully was the ancestor of ancient Nessie.

For decades, scientists have tried to cram a Tully monster into the Tree of Life. People have suggested, at various times, that the creature was a worm, or perhaps a lobster, or some kind of slug, or perhaps a fish? Different scientists fluctuate between calling the creature a vertebrate or an invertebrate, each new theory inevitably leading to triumphant headlines announcing, at last, that the mystery of Tully’s monster has been “solved.” the latest One of those headlines arrived this week, accompanied by a new research paper published in the journal Paleontology which aims to swing the vertebrate and invertebrate pendulum in favor of the weak.

Was this the shape of a Tully Beast? Credit: Nobuo Tamura/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Over the years, I’ve followed the mystery of Tully’s monster and other “problematic” fossils as they have been ostensibly solved. Just last year, Secret”exotic gold“Mystery solved “skeletal tubes” A riddle has been solved.A creature half a billion years old without an anusWith so many such stories running around, it’s easy to lose sight of what exactly is being ‘solved’ here. The obvious and most common answer is taxonomy – each of these organisms can be classified on the sprawling tree of life. The strange goldfish were mollusks The skeletal tubes belonged to an ancient, tube-shaped jellyfish, and the creature without an anus was ancestral to spiders and insects.This question of classification forms the titular riddle of Tully’s monster: what kind of animal was it?

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Tully’s monster roamed the tropical coastal waters of what is now Illinois, along with more visible relatives of modern shrimp, jellyfish, sharks, and sea cucumbers. The species was discovered in 1958 when Francis Tullya retired pipe fitter and amateur paleontologist, found Iron stone knot which cracked in two. Nodules are common in Mazoon Creek, hardened millions of years ago by chemical reactions around dead animals and plants, and later discarded by coal miners in fossil-filled heaps. This cracked iron stone contained the impression of an airship-like creature that Tully had never seen before. He brought his find to the Field Museum, where he also amazed the paleontologists; He was soon dubbed the Tully Beast. In 1966 Eugene Richardson, curator of Fossil Invertebrates, described fossil V Sciences And he named it Tullimonstrum gregariumSimply laminating her title.

That’s kind of what a Tully monster looked like. Credit: Ghedoghedo/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

Years of collecting have unearthed thousands of Tully monsters, ranging in size from a few inches to nearly a foot. The creature became the state fossil of Illinois, as well Face For many U-Haul trucks. As the Tully monster’s popularity grew, so did attempts to classify it. In describing the fossil in 1966, Richardson went so far as to “look like a worm”. In 1979, a geologist suggested that it was an “anomalous organ” of a mollusk, perhaps similar to a sea snail. About a decade later, a reanalysis suggested that the Tully monster’s closest relatives were either sea snails or extinct eel-like creatures with odd teeth called conodonts. Somewhere along the way, another paleontologist concluded that the fossil was one of two unrelated species of worm.

All of these definitions seemed plausible, but they are somewhat impossible to prove. Mazon Creek Ironstones have preserved the beautiful silhouettes of even the most recognizable of creatures but no organic matter from the animal itself. But in 2016, two serendipitously unrelated papers were published in the journal nature, with new lines of evidence indicating that Tully’s monster was a vertebrate. One A team of researchers Microscopic pigments were detected in the eyes of Tully’s fossils, and examined under a scanning electron microscope, she found a carpet of pigment granules shaped like “meatballs” and “sausages”—a unique characteristic of vertebrates. the another team He re-examined a white line running down the middle of the Tully monster’s body that had previously been interpreted as the creature’s gut tube — strange, considering other fossils found at Mazon Creek had black gut tubes, and some Tully monster fossils had a black line as well. to a white one. So the researchers identified the white line as a notochord, a flexible rod found only in vertebrates.

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Was this the shape of a Tully Beast? Credit: Entelognathus/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

The latter group suggested that the Tully monster’s closest relative was the lamprey, a spaghetti-like fish with concentric rings of nightmare teeth. Reputation sheets-The New York Times, The Atlantic, And Scientific American– announce that Tully’s mystery is finally solved, and people flock to the streets to burst into festive pots and pans and festive vuvuzela berries.

But nothing in 300 million years has really been settled, and one year later a group of not-quite-convinced paleontologists hit back in a paper in Paleontology with a partial titleTully monster is not a vertebrate. You’re going to make extraordinary claims, you need extraordinary evidence,” Lauren Sallan, paleobiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author Paleontology paper, V said press release.

In the years since, the papers have kept coming. A 2019 analysis of the magazine’s Tully monster eyes Proceedings of the Royal Society b Throwing a hat at the invertebrate episode, the 2020 Soft Tissue Analysis in biology He tossed a coin into the fountain of vertebrates. And now Paper 2023 creates a 3D model of Tully V’s monster Paleontology He joined the ranks of the prospective in dissolving Mysore, arguing that the creature was an invertebrate due to the division in its head region.

Was this the shape of a Tully Beast? Credit: Петр Меньшиков/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

At the opening of the beloved musician Fiddler on the roofThe villagers of the Russian shtetl in Anatevka sing a song about their tradition, aptly called “The Tradition”. The song reaches its climax when the villagers, divided over the identity of an ungulate recently sold at the market, begin shouting “Horse! Mule! Horse! Mule!” before returning to sing together again about tradition. This is how I feel every time the mystery of Tully’s monster is announced, with bated breath, that it has been solved once again. The headlines read as though they were fact, as if the controversy had already been settled. After all, a Tully monster didn’t have a backbone! The eyes of a tully monster prove that it is a vertebrate! The true nature of the monster is revealed! Of course I want more endless papers about this unusual creature. The pursuit of the Tully Beast’s true role in the story of life on Earth is an important question, and one that may eventually be answered with new tools, new fossils, or even new researchers. This is the great tradition of science: getting closer and closer to our best approximation of the truth.

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But as I see it, classification isn’t the only, or even the most interesting, question at play here. Find out whether or not Tully’s monster actually has a noose Solve Mysteries of a truly bizarre creature swept through the submerged canyons of Chicago like Cubs fans in 2016 (a huge year for Illinois creatures, past and present). I could spend hours speculating about how the creature’s dumbbell-like eyes scanned tropical waters in search of prey, the colors adorning its soft and possibly slimy body, and, most importantly, all the ways it used its curved snout—for food, sure, but any elongated snout; It raises a host of evolutionary questions. An organism’s existence is about much more than its kin. And the closer we get to the truth, the more we are reminded of the incomprehensible gap in time.

Anyway, see you next year when the mystery of Tully’s monster is solved again, and BYOV (bring your own vuvuzela)!