Tullimonstrum Mimic Squid


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Matting color

Tullimonstrum gregarium, commonly known asTully Monsters, are rather bizarre fossil animals from the Mazon Creek Formation in Illinois.  Tully Monsters were free-swimming creatures with flexible, pincer-tipped proboscii and eyes on the ends on either end of a rigid, bar like structure that projected from either their dorsal or ventral surface (which one is not precisely known since the fossils are squashed flat).  Tully Monsters also possess a single flexible fin on their tail which is somewhat similar to the fin surrounding the mantle of a squid.  Despite the abundance of fossils, scientists still do not know exactly what group of animals Tullimonstrum belongs to.  However, its overall shape and the complexity of its eyes suggests that it is some sort of mollusk, possibly an unusual gastropod offshoot.   
I previously illustrated Tullimonstrum-like animals in my first Hermit Anomalocarid piece (the orange, green and black creatures in the upper left).  Here I patterned their coloration after a nudibranch, originally just for aesthetic purposes.  But after considering these creatures for a while, I thought it would be interesting if they, like many real sea slugs, had bright coloring to serve as a signal that they are poisonous. From there, I imagined that if such were the case, there might be other animals in the environment that mimicked this Tullimonstrum to dissuade predators much as some spiders will mimic an acid-squirting ant to deter predatory birds. Several sketches later I ended up with a whole horde of animals that imitate various foul-tasting Tullimonstrum species.
    First in this series is the Clown Squid, Mimiteuthis joculator, which imitates the Orange-Nosed Harlequin Tully Monster, Tullimonstrum aurantiacurorostrum. Both animals inhabit an intertidal swamp formed by Cordaites-like trees-- evident here by the rotten, brown strap-like leaves littering the ground. The brown spikes sticking up everywhere are the Cordaites' pneumatophores-- an extension of the root that allows the plant to breathe even when partially underwater. Such structures are found today on black mangroves from the tropical and semi-tropical coasts of the western Atlantic. The pink sacs clustered around their bases, by the way,  are hardy tunicates that can survive dessication when the tide goes out.


Tullimonstrum Mimic Squid ©2011 John Meszaros.  All Rights Reserved