Marsupial lions come in all sizes. Previous research suggests some of the mammals were as small as squirrels, and researchers today are saying a new species was dog-sized.
A team at the University of New South Wales published a paper in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology on December 6 describing Wakaleo schouteni, a prehistoric species of marsupial lion. By studying the fossilized remains of the animal’s teeth, skull, and humerus, the researchers determined the 50-pound climber roamed rainforests about 18 to 26 million years ago, during the late Oligocene and early Miocene eras. The dog-sized predator had a flat head and large, blade-like teeth that could slice through flesh and munch on vegetation.
“The identification of these new species has brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family,” lead author Anna Gillespie says in a press release.
A MAMMALIAN MARCH OF PROGRESS
W. schouteni would have lived during the same time as the Microleo attenboroughi, the 1.3-pound micro lion found in the Neville’s Garden fossil deposit. M. attenboroughi was a squirrel-sized omnivore that climbed trees in the rainforests of prehistoric Australia. The much-larger W. schouteni was also arboreal.
This discovery contrasts with previous research saying no two marsupial lion species existed concurrently.
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SOURCE: National Geographic, Elaina Zachos