Australian scientists have uncovered fossil remains of a new species of marsupial lion in Australia's most famous fossil site, Riversleigh. The new species is believed to have been extinct for nearly 19 million years.
New Species Of Marsupial Lion: Wakaleo Schouteni
The new species, called Wakaleo schouteni, was named after Peter Schouten, an acclaimed Australian wildlife artist and illustrator.
A group of scientists from the University of New South Wales has stumbled upon the remains of the animal's teeth, skull, and upper arm bone in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in the north-west of Queensland.
The animal is believed to have been a meat-eating predator that roamed and climbed trees in the abundant rainforests of northern Australia around 18 million to 26 million years ago.
The animal was about the same size of a dog, weighing about 23 kilograms, and is the fifth known species of marsupial lion.
New Species Share Similarities With Priscileo Pitikantensis
Researchers say this latest finding suggests that there were two distinct species of marsupial lion that lived at least 25 million years ago. One of those species was known as Priscileo pitikantensis, but, its name was later changed to Wakaleo pitikantensis, due to dental similarities with the newly-discovered species.
According to the researchers, the Wakaleo schouteni's teeth and skull features are similar to the ones displayed by the Wakaleo family, but, its teeth also share some similarities with Priscileo pitikantensis.
In addition, the W. pitikantensis was somewhat smaller in size and was identified from fossil remains that were unearthed in South Australia back in the 1960s.
Dr. Anna Gillespie, a paleontologist at the University of New South Wales and lead author of the study, said the new discovery raises new questions about the evolutionary relationships of marsupial lions. The uncovering of these new species has led paleontologists to a whole new understanding of how unexpectedly diverse marsupial lions were and of the deeper origins of the family.
The find was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.
New Tiny Species Of Marsupial Lion Discovered In 2016
Last year, University of New South Wales scientists also uncovered a tiny species of marsupial lion in the same famous fossil site in Queensland. This animal is believed to have prowled the lush rainforests of northern Australia 18 million years ago. It was named Microleo attenboroughi after the famous broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough.
The Microleo attenboroughi is much smaller in size compared to the other members of this extinct marsupial lion, including its lion-sized younger relative, Thylacoleo carnifex.