The latest addition to the family tree of masupial lions is considerably more ancient than other members, going extinct roughly 19 million years ago.
A new species has been identified from the fossilised remains of a marsupial; lion-like creature that has been unearthed in Australia.
Named Wakaleo Schouteni, the predatory animal is said to be a relative of modern marsupials such as koalas and kangaroos. Marsupials are identified by the fact they carry their offspring in pouches attached to their bodies.
The new species was squat with a flat head. It has been named after famous wildlife illustrator and paleo artist Peter Schouten.
The fossils were discovered at Boodjamulla national park in Riversleigh which is located near the border of Queensland and the Northern Territory. The announcement of this find has followed 20 years of research into ancient marsupial lions after the first discoveries of fossils in the 1980’s.
This new creature is very closely related to the Thylacoleo Canifex; the least ancient known species of marsupial lion. It is said to have had giant, sword-like fangs with the strongest known jaws of any mammal species in history.
That species is believed to have gone extinct approximately 30,000 years ago and may be linked to the overhunting of ancient human beings in Australia. This new species is believed to be far more ancient than one’s previously discovered, being estimated to have gone extinct 19 million years ago.
This species is also much smaller than the other marsupial lions that have been discovered. At 130 kg the other marsupial lions may have been a significant threat to humans at the time, this creature is thought to be no larger than a common dog at 23 kg.
This latest discovery has aided researchers in understanding the decendents of marsupial lions who are believed to have lived in Australia at least 25 million years ago.
Researchers noted that the identification of this new species highlights an increased diversity between species of marsupial lion. It has been suggested that this new fossil demonstrates even deeper roots in the family tree.
Via an examination of the fossilised teeth of the creature palaeontologists have determined this to be one of the most ancient marsupial lions to have been discovered. Despite its small size in comparison to other marsupial lions this creature would still have been a vicious ambush predator in the Australian bush.
While a controversial opinion in some circles, common scientific thought is that giant marsupial species began to go extinct after the arrival of ancient humans in Australia. It is also said that changes in climate would have caused some of these species to go extinct.