Tullimonstrum (Tully Monster) (Paleozoic Pals)

5 (7 votes)

While prehistoric animals like Tyrannosaurus, Pteranodon, or woolly mammoths dominate the mainstream media and public imagination they are to be fair, kind of boring. Hear me out, I love my giant reptiles and Pleisotocene megafauna as much as the rest of you but let’s be honest, they’re all fairly straightforward. We can easily classify these more charismatic critters within the tree of life, they typically have surviving lineages, their form and function not too dissimilar to animals occupying similar niches today. In paleontology the really good stuff is the strange and obscure, the evolutionary offshoots and dead ends, the stuff so ancient and so unlike anything alive today that we can’t even begin to wrap our heads around them. Enter the Tully Monster.

At about a foot in length the Tully Monster was hardly a monster in terms of size but the name is appropriate when the anatomy of this animal is considered. Scientifically known as Tullimonstrum this is an animal that lived and died over 300 million years ago, in a world so alien that it makes the Mesozoic seem modern. And indeed, this looks like a creature from Star Wars more so than from prehistoric earth. It lived in muddy estuaries in what is now known as the Mazon Creek fossil bed, located in Illinois. So what is the Tully Monster? There is no easy answer to that. It has been classified as a worm, mollusk, arthropod, and even a vertebrate. In fact a recent 2016 study positioned it close to extant lampreys and hagfishes, and then another study in 2017 refuted it.

A few toys and models exist of this strange beastie but they really only appeal to a certain niche, our niche to be exact, and so none of them are mass produced or easy to come by. An affordable Tully Monster was something I’ve long wanted but never held out much hope for, so, needless to say I was elated when the Paleozoic Pals line announced its addition to their collection. For those unaware the Paleozoic Pals are a line of plush toys produced by the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York. Being local to me at the time I reviewed a number of them for the blog a couple years ago. It’s a fantastic line of generally ignored prehistoric animals from an era well represented by New York’s fossil beds.

This plush Tullimonstrum checks off all the bizarre features associated with the creature. It has a pair of vertical tail fins, stalked eyes, and a toothy proboscis that may or may not have been its mouth. It seems to follow the 2016 vertebrate hypothesis which is even referenced in its tag and superficially resembles a lamprey, even including a row of gill openings on either side. Unlike the earliest Paleozoic Pals but similar to the Dimetrodon and Tiktaalik this toy is made out of printed fabric with various brown tones and patterns. It’s small, measuring about a foot in length, but I suppose that also makes it roughly life size. It’s well put together too although I can see the eye stalks being easily torn off. Felt teeth rest within the proboscis and the eyes are embroidered so there are no small hard bits on this toy.

Overall this is an attractive and interesting little plush that well represents the Tullymonstrum. I would also consider it one of the best in the Paleozoic Pal line thus far. Even if you don’t collect plush toys I think this one is a must have, it’s not everyday that a Tully Monster this cute and accessible comes around. If not for yourself then maybe consider the little person in your life. Every kid has a Teddy bear but who has a Tully monster? Since this and the other Paleozoic Pals are exclusive to the Museum of the Earth you’ll have to go there directly or order one from their web site to acquire them. 

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Comments 4

  • This is definitely a must-buy for me. I had forgotten it was out!

  • The Tiktaalik and Dimetrodon also used a printed fabric (which reminds me I intended to review those a while back, and never got around to it. Oops). And great review. I’m really glad to have this one now, and the rest that I have. I still have to catch up and get the Trilobite, Eurypterid, and Dunkleosteus at some point though.

    • I’ll be posting a review for the Tiktaalik next week but feel free to do the Dimetrodon, I don’t have that one yet. The Dimetrodon doesn’t excite me much. I’ll get it eventually but both it and the Helicoprion are let downs. Yeah, I suppose I should have clarified that this isn’t the first to have the printed fabric, it’s actually the most recent release.

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