19-million-year-old fossils of new marsupial lion species discovered in Australia

SYDNEY (BERNAMA) - A team of Australian scientists announced on Thursday (Dec 7) the discovery of fossilised remains of a new species of lion that has been extinct for more than 19 million years, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

The University of New South Wales' researchers confirmed the fossilised skull, teeth, and humerus bone found at the Riversleigh World Heritage site in the remote north-western region of Queensland State. The remains were believed to belong to the mysterious marsupial lion.

Named after paleo-artist Peter Schouten, the Wakaleo Schouteni was a predator that roamed Australia's thick rainforests as far back as 26 million years ago.

Thought to be about the size of a dog, the animal enjoyed a bountiful carnivorous diet.

"We can make hypothesis about what it ate from the structure of its teeth," lead author Anna Gillespie said.

"It had sharp premolars that suggests it was slicing flesh like small birds, possums and lizards, but it might have also eaten a lot of veggies as well," she said.

"Its molars have a very broad base structure which also suggests it was using its teeth to cut and grind up food."

With the new discovery, scientists have now identified two separate marsupial lion species down under.

The first identified species, Wakaleo pitikantensis, was found in 1961 near Lake Pitikanta in South Australia and weighed in at around 130kg.

Dr Gillespie believes that because the era of the two animals ranges from 26 million years ago to around 30,000 years ago, there may be many more species left to uncover.

"We are finding more extinct animals all the time," she said. "So there is a very good chance there are more species out there waiting to be found."

Dr Gillespie will now focus her attention on learning about how the animal lived.

"I'm really interested in looking at the rest of the skeleton to try and work out how this animal moved around and what it did in its environment," she said.

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