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This bizarre marsupial lion once roamed Australia

December 8th, 2017 at 2:17 PM
marsupial lion

Australia is a weird place. Because of its location and that fact that life there has evolved in a vacuum — isolated from much of the rest of the world since the breakup up of the continents — many species that have lived and died there over millions of years have no equal anywhere else on the planet. A newly discovered species of marsupial that lived some 19 million years ago is helping to reenforce that notion even further, and it would have been a pretty frightening creature to run into.

The creature, named Wakaleo schouteni after its discoverer, paleontologist Peter Schouten, was like a miniature lion, with teeth made for slicing meat and a sturdy frame no larger than that of a dog. Weighing in at around 50 pounds when full grown, the unique animal is helping to draw a vivid picture of what life may have been like in Australia tens of millions of years in the past.

A paper on the discovery, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, describes an animal unlike any documented outside of Australia. The pint-sized lion is thought to have been a carnivore, with powerful jaws for rending flesh from bone and sharp, “blade-like” teeth that would have allowed it to make short work of it prey. It might not have been the biggest predator around, but it would have been a formidable foe for many of the species it preyed upon.

The animal isn’t the first four-legged marsupial carnivore discovered in Australia’s fossil record, with the much larger Thylacoleo carnifex having dominated the food chain some 30,000 years ago. A smaller species of marsupial lion is also known to have lived around the same time as W. schouteni as well. After studying the dental features of both long-extinct animals, scientists now believe they were indeed independent species, rather than one being an evolutionary offshoot that came later.

“The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family,” lead author Dr Anna Gillespie of the University of New South Wales explains.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today,, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

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