An extinct species of flesh-eating marsupial lion has been identified from 19-million-year-old fossils in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of north-western Queensland.
The University of New South Wales scientists who made the discovery named the lion Wakaleo schouteni in honour of paleoartist Peter Schouten.
They identified the lion from an almost complete skull, teeth, and upper arm bones.
The marsupial lion weighed around 23 kilograms and had large blade like teeth to tear up prey.
The carnivore hunted in Australia’s abundant rainforests 18 to 26 million years ago in the late Oligocene to early Miocene era.
The new species is about a fifth of the weight of the largest and last surviving marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, which weighed 130 kilograms.
The discovery comes just a year after the fossilised remains of a kitten-sized marsupial lion were found in the same fossil site in Queensland.
The scientists named that predator Microleo attenboroughi after broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.
Dr Anna Gillespie, a palaeontologist from the University of New South Wales, says the latest finding raises new questions about the evolutionary relationships of marsupial lions.
“The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family,” she says.
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