Francis Tully, the amateur paleontologist who discovered a prehistoric marine animal which came to be called the “Tully monster,” has died at the age of 75.
Tully, a retired pipe fitter who died Wednesday at a hospital here, discovered the creature in 1955 among piles of coal shale near the banks of Mazon Creek.
He said the fossil was in a rock that had cracked in two from natural weathering.
“I knew right away,” he said in an interview earlier this year. “I’d never seen anything like it.”
Experts at the Field Museum in Chicago also said that they had never seen anything like Tully’s find--remnants of a foot-long, soft-bodied creature with a tail like an airplane and an elephant-like trunk with a toothy claw.
“We could not even decide what phylum (animal division) to put it in,” wrote the late E. S. Richardson, curator of fossil invertebrates at the museum.
In 1966, Richardson decided that it had to be formally introduced to science, so he wrote a paper giving the creature the name it had borne for years, this time in Latin.
It was called “Tullimonstrum gregarium--Tully monster, common.”
Richard Leary, curator of geology for the Illinois State Museum, describes Tully’s creature as looking “like a pregnant earthworm with fins and an elephant snout.”