marsupial lion, new species

In a new find, a team of Australian scientists has successfully discovered a new type of marsupial lion species that got extinct 19 million years ago. The fossilized remains of the new species were found at one of the significant fossil deposits in the world. The scientists informed that the fossilized remains of the creature’s teeth, skull, and humerus (upper arm bones) were discovered in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of remote northwestern Queensland, Australia. The name of the new marsupial lion species is Wakaleo schouteni, named in honor of palaeoartist Peter Schouten.

The predator stalked Australia’s bountiful rainforests somewhere around 18 to 26 million years ago in the late Oligocene to late early Miocene era. Lead author of the study Anna Gillespie, a paleontologist from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) said, “this meat-eating marsupial is estimated to have been about the size of a dog and weighed around 23 kilograms.” The predator had sharp, blade-like flesh-cutting premolars which helped it tear the prey’s flesh apart.

The study informed that the new marsupial lion species is almost one-fifth of the weight of the largest and last surviving marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex. This giant marsupial lion weighed almost close to 130 kilograms and became extinct 30,000 years ago. Last year also, the UNSW researchers discovered fossilized remains of a kitten-sized marsupial lion, named Microleo Attenborough, from the same fossil site where they discovered this new species.

In 1961, a new marsupial lion species Wakaleo pitikantensis was discovered near Lake Pitikanta in South Australia. These two discoveries pushed the scientists to believe that two different types of marsupial lion species lived during the late Oligocene era around 25 million years ago. And, the latest discovery of another new species Wakaleo Schouten, which is believed to be having similar features of the genus Wakaleo, has indicated about the large diversity of the Marsupial lions that were not expected initially.

The Wakaleo genus had many dental similarities with Priscileo genus, and both had the presence of three upper molars and four molars. These dental similarities of W. Schouten and W. pitikantensis distinguish them from other species of this genus, and these are the most primitive members of the genus. “The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggested even deeper origins for the family, said Gillespie. The study was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

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