Fossils Of New, Extinct Marsupial Lion Unearthed In Australia, Named After Sir David Attenborough

First Posted: Aug 24, 2016 06:02 AM EDT

A team of researchers from the University of South Wales in Australia found the fossils of a tiny species of extinct marsupial lion dated 18 million years ago. They were discovered in at the Riversleigh World Heritage in northwestern Queensland.

The team named the species Microleo Attenborough, in honor of Sir David Attenborough, who was a broadcaster and naturalist. He supported the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, which he designated it as one of the four most important fossil areas in the world, according to Phys.Org.

The description of the new species was printed in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica. The paper was authored Dr. Anna Gillespie from UNSW and other colleagues. Dr. Gillespie said that Microleo Attenborough would have been more like the cute, but still feisty kitten of the family. It was much smaller than the other members of this extinct marsupial lion family. It weighed as much as 600 grams.

Mike Archer, a professor from UNSW said that despite its relatively small size compared with the Pleistocene Thylacoleo carnifex, which was the last surviving megafauna marsupial lion, the new species was one of the larger flesh eaters existing in the ancient community of rainforest creatures at Riversleigh, as noted by Australian Network News. The discovery of the new species was found from a limestone deposit believed to have shaped in a pool within a rainforest landscape about 19 million years ago, during the Miocene.

The fossils specimen unearthed includes its skull and teeth. The researchers will still examine the skull and skeleton to know the marsupial lion's lifestyle. They would further analyze the fossil remains and need the complete set of its remains to unravel some of its mysteries.

The marsupial lion is an inexistent species of carnivorous marsupial mammal that lived in Australia from the early to the late Pleistocene (1,600,000 to 46,000 years ago). It is known as the largest meat-eating mammal in Australia. It is also one of the largest marsupial carnivores in the world.

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