Tullimonstrum gregarium – my Tully Monster mannequin, seen from beneath (© Dr Karl Shuker)

Down by the many years because it first
attracted notable public and media consideration in the course of the early Nineteen Thirties, Scotland’s
(in)well-known Loch Ness Monster has impressed all method of recommendations as to its
potential zoological id – all the time assuming, after all, that it really
exists within the first place!

However none, absolutely, could be any stranger
than the little-known instance revealed right here, a veritable monster in its personal
proper – and which additionally featured at a lot the identical time, furthermore, in one of many
most extraordinary zoological hoaxes ever recorded, regarding a big and extremely
harmful but hitherto inexplicably-overlooked species of dancing worm!



In July 1966, primarily based upon some fossils discovered
in Illinois and relationship again 280-300 million years, Dr Eugene S. Richardson Jr
(1916-1983), Curator of Fossil Invertebrates from Chicago’s Area Museum of
Pure Historical past, totally described inside that month’s difficulty of the Area
Museum’s scientific Bulletin a brand new
species of small, ostensibly inauspicious worm-like creature, however which has subsequently
proved to be one of the vital zoologically baffling beasts ever recorded by
science. Not solely that, it may well additionally boast a few startling, surprising
hyperlinks to cryptozoology, as will now be seen.

The official taxonomic identify of this
enigmatic little animal is Tullimonstrum
, which Richardson had bestowed upon it a short while beforehand in
the distinguished American weekly journal Science.
Nonetheless, it’s generally identified colloquially merely because the Tully Monster, and in
subsequent years it turned so well-known that in 1989 it was formally designated
the State fossil of Illinois.


This very unusual species derives each
its binomial and its vernacular identify from its fossils’ discoverer, Francis J. Tully,
an beginner fossil collector who in 1958 had discovered some specimens of it within the
Mazon Creek formation, a sequence of fossil beds in Grundy County, northeastern Illinois,
which had been a coastal estuary in the course of the Late Carboniferous Interval when Tullimonstrum had thrived. Unable to
determine them, Tully took these mystifying specimens to the Area Museum, whose
palaeontologists have been equally puzzled, by no means having seen something like them
earlier than.

Nonetheless, additional fossils of this archaic
thriller mini-beast have been subsequently found – so many, in reality, that their
abundance impressed Richardson’s eventual naming of it, as a result of Tullimonstrum gregarium interprets as
‘widespread Tully monster’. Having mentioned that, nonetheless, just one Tully Monster species
is understood, and just one very particular locality for it’s identified (the Essex biota
part of the Mazon Creek fossil beds) – however what isn’t identified in any respect, or at
least not for sure, is what on earth, or in earth, Tullimonstrum really is!


The rationale why this historic anomaly is so
baffling is its morphology, which is so completely weird that it has defied
all makes an attempt by researchers to classify with any diploma of satisfaction or
confidence its singular species inside any pre-existing taxon, not even one as
elevated within the taxonomic hierarchy as a phylum.

Vermiform in fundamental physique form and
measuring roughly 3-14 inches lengthy, Tullimonstrum
is characterised by some actually novel attributes. At its anterior finish is a protracted
slender proboscis terminating in a greedy, claw-like pair of jaws, every
containing as much as eight small, sharp tooth-like constructions. Simply behind the bottom
of the proboscis is a skinny transverse bar, at both finish of which is a small
spherical organ believed to be a camera-like eye, every containing melanosomes whose
type and construction is in step with such an id for it. Additional again
nonetheless are paired constructions which were recognized as gills, and its most
posterior, tail-end physique portion bears a pair of vertical fins resembling a
spade in form. As well as, and the principal purpose for its having incited so
a lot hypothesis as to its taxonomic id, is the presence of what could be a rudimentary notochord or spinal

Tullimonstrum reconstructed as a lamprey-like beast (© Entelognathus/Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

Each few years ever since its mid-Nineteen Sixties
description, a brand new research of its fossils leads to a brand new concept being proposed in
the scientific literature as to what Tullimonstrum
could also be, just for this to be hotly disputed by opposing viewpoints.

The latest printed research and
proffered opinion dates from as not too long ago as April 2023, when a Japanese
analysis staff introduced that their superior 3-D imaging strategies had revealed
that Tullimonstrum has segmentation
in its head area which extends from its physique – one thing that no identified
vertebrate lineage possesses. So despite possessing a putative notochord or
spinal wire, Tullimonstrum was not,
they believed, of vertebrate affinity.

Tullimonstrum reconstructed as an invertebrate (above), and as a vertebrate (beneath)
(© Fossiladder 13/Wikipedia –
CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

Earlier recommendations by earlier
researchers, in the meantime, have ranged from this latter beastie being a basal vertebrate
distantly associated to lampreys, or an anomalocaridid-allied arthropod, to a
specialised type of mollusc, a worm, a conodont, or a chordate however of
non-vertebrate id (like present-day tunicates).

As this current ShukerNature weblog article
isn’t involved primarily with both the taxonomic or the palaeontological
complexities and controversies regarding Tullimonstrum,
nonetheless, I shall abstain from presenting any additional concerns of those
topics right here, and progress as a substitute to what it is involved with. Specifically, two very stunning hyperlinks between
Tully’s bizarre little worm from the far-distant previous and cryptozoology in fashionable



Ever because the early Nineteen Thirties, the Loch Ness
Monster has all the time been a significant supply of cryptozoological competition, however this
was very true in the course of the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies, following Tim Dinsdale’s
taking pictures in 1960 of his brief however iconic cine-film purportedly exhibiting a really
giant, unidentified creature transferring throughout and beneath the loch’s floor.
Quite a few Nessie-themed books and articles appeared throughout this era, however one
of probably the most uncommon was undoubtedly The
Nice Orm of Loch Ness: A Sensible Inquiry Into the Nature and Habits of
, authored by F.W. ‘Ted’ Vacation (1921-1979) and printed in

Vacation had lengthy been intrigued by Nessie
and different aquatic thriller beasts, however whereas in a second e-book, The Dragon and the Disc (1973), he
pursued a magical rationalization for such entities (even linking them to UFOs),
in The Nice Orm of Loch Ness he
adopted a extra standard strategy, proposing a corporeal, zoological
id for Nessie. Nonetheless, the precise creature that he nominated was
decidedly unconventional.


my copy of Vacation’s e-book The Nice Orm
of Loch Ness
(© Dr Karl Shuker/Faber & Faber – reproduced right here on a
strictly non-commercial Truthful Use foundation for academic/assessment functions solely)

Relatively than any of the then-in vogue
herpetological contenders (comparable to an enormous newt or frog-like amphibian, a
crocodilian reptile, or, hottest of all again in these occasions, a dwelling
modern-day species of plesiosaur), after receiving a duplicate of Richardson’s 1966
paper from a fellow LNM investigator Vacation boldly proposed that the Loch Ness
Monster was nothing lower than a gargantuan present-day descendant of the Tully

Vacation postulated that Nessie’s
frequently-reported lengthy slender neck was in actuality the elongate proboscis of
his proposed big Tullimonstrum,
that Nessie’s entrance flippers have been really his latter hypothesised creature’s transverse
appendages, and that Nessie’s posterior physique area, typically likened by
eyewitnesses to a finned tail, was in reality the latter’s paired vertical tail
fins. He additionally noticed indications of two dorsal humps in numerous images and
different illustrations of Tullimonstrum
fossils that may clarify Nessie’s well-known humps if current in an enormous Tully


Talking of which, he contemplated whether or not
the small specimens of this extraordinary fossil creature thus far found
have been solely immature examples, and that maybe there have been full-sized (i.e.
Nessie-sized) specimens nonetheless awaiting scientific discovery:

Furthermore, it’s
under no circumstances not possible that sections or elements of a lot bigger Tully monsters could
even now be reposing in museum basements awaiting identification.

Fifty-five years have handed since
Vacation wrote these optimistic phrases, however as but, nonetheless, no such specimens
have come to mild. Neither is that the one main difficulty with Vacation’s makes an attempt to
determine the Loch Ness Monster with the Tully Monster. The unhappy however easy fact
is that he had misunderstood the true nature of sure key features of the latter’s
morphology, which inevitably had led his proposals badly astray.


Ness (public area)

As an example, in his e-book he referred to
probably the most anterior jawed portion of Tullimonstrum
as its head, whereas in actuality it’s nothing greater than the terminal jaws of this
creature’s lengthy proboscis – and which Vacation misrepresented as its neck.
Equally, he did his finest to determine the transverse bar behind the bottom of
the proboscis as a pair of locomotory paddles, when in actuality the pair of fleshy
lobes on the two ends of this bar are believed to be visible organs, as a result of
they seem to include some type of retinal construction. And what he envisaged as
humps alongside its again look like nothing greater than artifacts attributable to the
flattening of the delicate Tullimonstrum specimens
throughout their fossilization.

In fact, one would possibly counsel in Vacation’s
defence that by not being a zoologist or palaeontologist he could possibly be forgiven
for drawing such faulty conclusions. Sadly, nonetheless, this defence
falls by the wayside after we uncover that his e-book additionally contains as an
appendix the total textual content of Richardson’s July 1966 Bulletin paper describing Tullimonstrum,
during which its physique areas’ anatomy and features are precisely documented by
Richardson. As well as, Vacation had even corresponded straight with Richardson
relating to his proposal that Nessie was an enormous Tully Monster (however relating to
which Richardson had in flip expressed grave misgivings to him). Consequently,
Vacation had no excuse for his personal extremely inaccurate assumptions relating to these
identical issues.


Tullimonstrum, the Tully Monster – however evidently not the Loch Ness Monster (©
Tim Morris)

Vacation had lengthy believed that Nessie was
some type of big worm – therefore the title of his e-book, the phrase ‘orm’ being an
archaic model of ‘worm’. This latter time period is in flip typically utilized not
merely in zoology to limbless elongate invertebrates of the earthworm and
outwardly related form, but in addition in western mythology to dragons that match that
identical description, i.e. elongate and limbless, such because the well-known Lambton worm
and Laidly worm. This due to this fact explains why his second e-book, linking Nessie to
UFOs, was entitled The Dragon and the

Vacation additionally thought-about the Tully Monster
to be a worm, however considered one of a uniquely plesiosaurian form:

Tully’s monster
did one great point. It firmly demonstrated that wormlike animals with the
look of a plesiosaurus did as soon as exist.


plesiosaurian illustration of Loch Ness Monster (© Richard Svensson)

In that case, this might clarify not solely
Nessie’s form when seen by eyewitnesses but in addition why it wasn’t seen extra typically,
i.e. regularly. For if Nessie have been certainly a worm, it may due to this fact take in
oxygen from the loch’s water straight by its physique’s outer layer (epidermal
respiration, like frogs and salamanders can typically do), not needing to floor
on a frequent foundation so as to inhale air into its lungs like a mammal or
reptile would wish to do. Accordingly, Vacation concluded his private
identification of Nessie as an enormous undiscovered modern-day Tully Monster with
the next daring assertion:

No-one is aware of whether or not
the Orm of Loch Ness is a type of Tullimonstrum;
however, speaking most unscientifically, I’d guess my shirt that it’s.

Sadly, nonetheless, I believe that my above
account of how and why his understanding of Tullimonstrum
is severely flawed, and, as an inevitable consequence, his conclusion {that a}
big model of this species does certainly clarify Nessie is wholly wayward,
proffers greater than enough proof to counsel that Vacation would have
definitely misplaced his shirt!



At a lot the identical time that Vacation was
looking for with fervor however final futility to hyperlink the Tully Monster to the Loch
Ness Monster, Tullimonstrum was additionally
hitting the cryptozoological headlines for a really completely different but no much less
memorable purpose.

On 1 September 1966, after studying a
report within the East African Commonplace
(a really well-known newspaper in what was then British East Africa) regarding
the invention and Richardson’s current scientific description of Tullimonstrum, a retired military
Lieutenant-Colonel named R.G.L. Cloudesley, from Nairobi in Kenya, wrote an
extraordinary letter to Richardson, during which he made the next probably
thrilling declare. The related portion reads as follows:

In 1926 having been seconded to the Kings (now Kenya) African
Rifles from the Indian Military, I used to be in northwestern Kenya coping with some
border incidents. Passing by the executive centre of
Lodwar on my return journey,
I t
ook the chance of calling upon Mr. A. M.
Champion, then D. C. Turkana Dis­trict. Along with being a eager shikar,
Champ­ion was a naturalist of the primary rank, and in the course of the two evenings I
handed in his firm he regaled me with many a captivating yarn in regards to the
fauna of the realm. Amongst these was one a few exceptional worm reputed to dwell
within the swamp nation to the southeast. The native tribes­males informed unbelievable
tales about its dancing and giving milk, if I keep in mind accurately. Such
nonsense apart, Champion did give me a descrip­tion of the creature which he
had obtained from numerous natives (he by no means succeeded in getting a specimen)
and this curiously sufficient has remained in my reminiscence when a lot else has been
forgotten. His account agreed remarkably nicely with the illustration of your
“Tully Monster,” even to the “paddles” and the lengthy snout.
Your point out of sharp enamel, by the way, does agree with a Turkana story that
the creature bites. On this account they’re deathly afraid of it, believing
that it’s toxic. However then practically all natives consider the whole lot of the
creeping or crawling form to be venomous.

I hardly dare to counsel {that a} relation of your extinct
“Monster” nonetheless survives in one of many remotest elements of East Africa,
however it would possibly simply be worthwhile to pursue the matter.


Turkana is a northwestern county in
Kenya, well-known for the invention there of varied vital fossil hominid

Unsurprisingly, Richardson was very
concerned about Cloudesley’s letter, however even earlier than he had probability to answer to it
he acquired a second letter of be aware, dated 13 September 1966, this time from
Purshottan S. Patel of Nakuru, a city located about 100 miles northwest of
Nairobi. Patel knowledgeable Richardson that one thing like Tullimonstrum may very well be present in Turkana’s lakes, as he’d
been informed by family of a wierd type of dancing worm that lived in these
watery expanses.

long-extinct Tullimonstrum gregarium
however was there a dwelling Tully Monster species of terpsichorean tendency awaiting
scientific discovery within the lakes of Turkana? (© Stanton F. Fink/Wikipedia –
CC BY-SA 2.5 licence)

Not lengthy afterwards, Richardson acquired
a 3rd letter, dated 8 September 1966, from Joseph N. Ngomo, an intermediate
college instructor from Nakuru, who knowledgeable him that after his class had learn the Commonplace newspaper’s report regarding Tullimonstrum, a number of of his pupils had
claimed that they’d been informed of a similar-sounding creature from their
fathers. Ngomo included in his letter a be aware written by one such pupil, a boy
named Akai, which acknowledged that these worms are identified regionally because the ekurut loedonkakini,
swim and “wave palms” in the course of the full moon, give milk, and possess a
chew deadly to people.

By now, Richardson was sufficiently
intrigued by these ostensibly impartial but carefully corroborating
communications to counsel to his colleagues on the Area Museum that an
expedition seeking Turkana’s tantalising dancing worms could be justified,
as a result of in the event that they did turn into a dwelling Tullimonstrum
species this may clearly be a really momentous zoological discovery. First of
all, nonetheless, a be aware requesting any extra data relating to these
creatures was ready by the Museum and duly printed within the E-newsletter of the East African Pure
Historical past Affiliation
– however none was forthcoming.

mannequin of Tullimonstrum gregarium as a
vertebrate (© Петр Меньшиков-Wikipedia –
CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

In early 1967, whereas the proposed expedition
was nonetheless on the strategy planning stage, Richardson was visited by a former colleague,
palaeontologist Dr Bryan Patterson (1909-1979), now a professor at Harvard
College however beforehand Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology on the Chicago
Area Museum. Patterson had not too long ago carried out some discipline work in Kenya and
acknowledged that he really knew the uncle of Richardson’s second correspondent,
Patel. Nonetheless, Patterson additionally acknowledged that he’d by no means heard of dancing worms at
Turkana, and appeared extremely amused by the entire topic – as nicely he could be.

For it subsequently transpired that
Cloudesley, Patel, Ngomo, and Akai didn’t exist – they’d all been created,
and their communications written, by none apart from Patterson himself, as a
prank with which to idiot his buddy Richardson, and which had clearly succeeded
very efficiently!


{photograph} of Dr Bryan Patterson and a shot Tullimonstrum
(public area)

Fortunately, Richardson took all of it in good
spirit after receiving the reality from Patterson in a Christmas 1968 letter that
additionally included a humorous hoax {photograph} during which Patterson was posing in full
discipline regalia holding a rifle and a supposed shot specimen of a sizeable Tullimonstrum. Certainly, after cancelling
his deliberate expedition to seek for it, Richardson even ready a brief e-book
entitled The Dancing Worm of Turkana,
publishing it in 1969 below the pseudonym E. Scumas Rory. In it, he reproduced
all 4 of the principal faux communications despatched to him by Patterson, and
additionally briefly referred to a second missive that he’d acquired from ‘Patel’, plus
a number of extra ones despatched to him by numerous different correspondents.

Moreover, Richardson revealed on this
e-book that F.W. Vacation had written to ‘Cloudesley’ for data, however had
by no means acquired a reply (for apparent causes now!). Furthermore, Richardson even
contributed an introduction to the e-book below his personal identify, along with some
nice illustrations below his Rory pseudonym, and these days this literary
curiosity is a highly-collectable publication in its unique hard-copy format
(a number of web sites include downloadable public-domain pdf variations of it).


The Dancing Worm of Turkana, entrance cowl (public area)

In brief, though the dancing worms
of Turkana by no means existed, they’re immortalized in print, that means that their
influence, albeit transitory, upon the zoological world may also dwell on!

Lastly: the identify ‘E. Scumas Rory’ appears
so unlikely, even contrived, that I can not assist however wonder if in actuality
it’s a intelligent anagram, however I have been unable to find one from it. So if any
anagram aficionados are studying this text, maybe they want to see
whether or not they can extract one – and, if anybody does, I would vastly welcome


ekurut loedonkakini or Turkana dancing worm, biting a person – sketch by ‘E,
Scumas Rory’ (public area)


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