Marsupial lions are the largest carnivores in Australia (as if the country is in short supply of animals that can kill you). But fret not, it’s already extinct. These creatures aren’t just one size, as some can be as small as squirrels. However, a new study shows that a new species of marsupial lions have similar sizes to dogs of today (like dogs have one size too).
The study, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology shows Wakaleo schouteni, a newly discovered species of marsupial lion. Researchers studied the fossils of the prehistoric animal and determined it lives around the late Oligocene and early Miocene eras, around 18 to 26 million years ago. The researchers also determined its size to in the range of a dog to a leopard, have large blade-like teeth that can easily gnaw at meat and vegetation but has a short head to house those teeth and weighs around 50 pounds.
"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," says Anna Gillespie, lead author of the study, in a press release.
The dog-sized W. schouteni lived alongside Microleo attenboroughi, a squirrel-sized omnivore that lives on trees, but W. schouteni also lived on trees. "They would have been very different in size and so would have been different kinds of predators," says Christine Janis, a paleontologist who was not involved in the study.
These extinct species are related to other marsupials such as wombats and koalas. But they’re not related to lions, as their names suggests. W. schouteni, which bite is more powerful than any modern lion, is an addition to family of Wakaleo. This family includes the Thylacoleo carnifex, also known as the “pouched lion executioner”. "We're filling in what the hypothesis sort of was on what the ancestry would have been like," Janis says.
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