Laura Geggel

There are few ancient creatures as controversial as the Tully monster, a bowling-pin-sized oddity with eyes like a hammerhead that lived about 307 million years ago. Now, after decades of studies, each with a different take on how to define the weird aquatic creature, the Tully monster has been decoded: It’s a vertebrate, meaning it had a backbone, a new study finds. 

Scientists analyzed the chemical residues left on fossilized remains of the Tully monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium) and compared them with the chemical remnants on other vertebrate and invertebrate fossils from the monster’s ancient home in what is now Mazon Creek in northeastern Illinois, said study lead researcher Victoria McCoy, a visiting assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.



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