A team of Australian researchers has recently discovered a new species of extinct marsupial lion. This animal lived about 25 million years-ago and roamed the rainforests of northern Australia. The official name of the new species is Wakaleo schouteni, it had a flat head and weighed only about 22 kilos. It is actually the fifth species of marsupial lion that experts have discovered at Riversleigh, near the Queensland-Northern Territory border.
The Journal of Systematic Paleontology made the official announcement about this discovery on Thursday. It took about twenty years for the scientists to finally uncover this extinct species. The first clue regarding the existence of this species was spotted by a volunteer in the 1980s. He found fragments of bone and teeth in the Riversleigh rocks. Later, teams of paleontologists also discovered skull fragments and some hand bones.
A new extinct species of marsupial lion
According to Anna Gillespie, the lead author of this research, she was analyzing the back side of a skull when a phone call interrupted her work. The Mt Isa laboratory contacted her and said that they had the front half of a marsupial lion skull. Gillespie had the back part and analysis proved that it was the same specimen, found in the same area.
This allowed the experts to place the animal in the Wakaleo family, an early ancestor of the Thylacoleo carnifex, a 130 kilos marsupial that lived between 1.9 million and 3.000 years-ago. This particular specimen must have lived between 18 million and 29 million years-ago, based on the limestone from where it was found.
Gillespie says that even if they don’t have enough examples of Wakaleo schouteni’s arms, fossils found near it prove that it may have climbed trees with the help of its koala-like thumbs. As for its size, it was probably as big as a border collie.
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