Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tullimonstrum gregarium

The past couple of years have seen a remarkable series of fossil discoveries, from Yutyrannus huali, through Pinguinus ingens, down to Protungulatum donnae.

This next creature does not represent a new fossil find -- that dates back almost half a century -- but rather a brand-new (and quite surprising) taxonomic determination.    Let the New York Times tell it:

Some thought the 300-million-year-old creature was a mollusk, like a snail. Others assumed it was an arthropod like an insect or crab. And others believed it was some sort of worm.
Now, a team of researchers from Yale University say they have figured out the monster’s identity:  It’s a vertebrate most closely related to the lamprey.

Scale model of the “Tully monster”
(actual length:  fifty feet)

Etymology of the Latin designator:
Tullimonstrum:  meaning, ‘monster found by Mr Tully’ (in Illinois)
gregarium: meaning, ungainly though it may have been, this creature liked to hang out with his homeys.

For a scientific summing-up of recent paleontological triumphs, click here.

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