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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Tully (Not Telly) Monster was a VERTEBRATE (!) Extremely Well Preserved in Siderite

      A 300 million year-old fossil mystery has possibly been solved by a research team at the University of Leicester, which has identified the ancient 'Tully Monster' as a vertebrate, due to the unique characteristics of its eyes.

      Tullimonstrum gregarium or as it is more commonly known the 'Tully Monster', found only in chucky-jam full of fossils coal quarries in Illinois, USA, is known to many Americans because its alien-like image can be seen on the sides of large U-haul™ trailers along the freeways. 

    Dr. Sarah Gabbott from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology said: "Since its discovery over 60 years ago scientists have suggested it is a whole parade of completely different creatures ranging from molluscs to worms -- but there was no conclusive evidence and so speculation continued."

        Thomas Clements, a PhD student from the University of Leicester and lead author on the paper, explained: "When a fossil has anatomy this bizarre it's difficult to know where to start, so we decided to look at the most striking feature -- the stalked structures with dark blobs."

      The Tully Monster, unlike the Telly Monster of Sesame Street fame, is extremely well preserved in siderite which, as we've previously discussed has very high iron concentration.

     "In a new study published in Nature, the University of Leicester paleontologists discovered that the dark 'blobs' were actually made up of hundreds of thousands of microscopic dark granules, each 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair."

     "The shape and chemical composition of these granules is identical to organelles found in cells called melanosomes; these being responsible for creating and storing the pigment melanin."

     "We used a new technique called Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) to identify the chemical signature of the fossil granules and compared it to known modern melanin from other vertebrates and this proved that we had discovered the oldest fossil pigment currently known."

      Identifying fossil melanosomes containing melanin and a lens is the first time it has been conclusively proved that Tullimonstrum had eyes on stalks.

      Professor Gabbott said: "There were two distinct shapes of melanosomes in Tullimonstrum's eyes: some look like microscopic 'sausages' and others like microscopic 'meatballs'. This evidence was crucial because only vertebrates have two different shapes of melanosome, meaning that unlike previous researchers that thought that Tullimonstrum was an invertebrate (animal without a backbone), this is the first unequivocal evidence that Tullimonstrum is a member of the same group of animals as us, the vertebrates."

     Thomas added: "This is an exciting study because not have we discovered the oldest fossil pigment, but the structures seen in Tullimonstrum's eyes suggest it had good vision. The large tail and teeth suggest that the Tully Monster is in fact a type of very weird fish."

       So. . .Tully and Telly Monsters, melanosomes that look like meatballs and sausages, eyes on stalks, very weird fish--there must be some good puns and jokes in there somewhere. . .


South Park, Colorado, clouds 


  1. Kepler's back, BTW.

    Who are you calling a monster, baby? (My favorite tough-guy line of his from the show: "Greeks don't make threats. We utter prophesies.")

    I can think of no other purpose for the Peirce quincuncial projection, Wikipedia's featured picture today, but I'd like to see it printed on cocktail napkins.

    1. Antarctica est omnis divisa in partes quattuor.

    2. That took a lot of gaul, Paul!

    3. Quincuncial is a great word, eh?

      Gaul Paul. I like that, too.

  2. Ah, Telly!

    What a fun projection for cocktail napkins! I wonder if they are out there already?

  3. And here it comes. . .Clouds blowing in to South Park, CO, USA, above ^^^.

    1. Eyah. All of Denver trying to get to the hills before it hits.

    2. How are you holding up? I heard I-70 was closed between Denver and Vail. I won't tell you what I wore to go biking on this lovely Spring afternoon. (There is a frost warning posted for tonight, though.)

    3. Yes, they closed I-70 at El Rancho yesterday afternoon. Friends were trying to get home to Georgetown and just made it before the road closure. Snowed all day and roads are pretty sloppy. So far, no lost power so that's good!

      Glad you could cycle in shorts!

  4. Replies
    1. Two letters forward in the alphabet, too. ;-) Great changes.

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks for linking to this zika story, Steph. The implications of this scourge have been woefully under-reported in the media.


  6. Thanks for checking back, Lego. Hope you had a good trip!

  7. New post on "Partial Ellipsis of the Sun is on Spring Break" is up.