(Mirror Daily, United States) Australia is the home of the most bizarre creatures on Earth: platypuses, koala bears, kangaroos. A recent discovery adds one more to the list, although it is only a fossil: micro lion. It has nothing to do with lions in the savanna, and this is why it perfectly fits among the Australian fauna.
Fossils of what seems to be a new species of marsupials were found in Riversleigh World Heritage Area of Queensland. Because this is what the micro lion actually is: a small sized marsupial. It only weighs 600 grams (1.3 pounds), and it is quite smaller than a regular cat. Nevertheless, it is related to cats, such as lions too, only by the fact that it has razor sharp teeth, which means it is a carnivore.
This micro lion is an extinct species and researchers think it lived about 18 million years ago. They only found a small skull and several teeth. Judging by the fossils, they also believe that the micro lion was actually smaller than Thylacoleo carnifex, another type of marsupial carnivore lion.
The research team gave the species an interesting name, which has to do with its small sizes and with biologist David Attenborough. There is an excerpt of the study which explains the denomination:
“The species name honours Sir David Attenborough for his dedication and enthusiasm in promoting the natural history of the world and the paleontological treasures of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in particular.”
Anna Gillespie, a member of the research team, compared the micro lion to other relatives of its own, living in fascinating Australia:
“Microleo shared these northern Miocene rainforests with two larger species of marsupial lion, one cat-sized and the other dog-sized. Although it is possible they competed with one other, the size differences probably means they each specialised on a different size range of prey.”
The first marsupial lion ever discovered was actually the Thylacoleo carnifex, back in 1858. Studies on the animal revealed it was quite fierce and aggressive, being able to kill larger sized animals than it was. The micro lion is also believed to be an intimidating opponent, being able to rule the food chain at a lower level.
The study was published in Palaeontologia Electronica, an online publication.
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia
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