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Orangutan in forest

2018 Top 10 New Species

Image by Andrew Walmsley

Marsupial Lion: Ferocious fossilESF Top 10 New Species of 2018

  • orchid

    Reconstruction of Wakaleo schouteni challenging the thylacinid Nimbacinus dicksoni over a kangaroo carcass in the late Oligocene forest at Riversleigh, Australia
    Illustration credit: Peter Schouten

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    Profile view of the skull of Wakaleo schouteni
    Photo credit: Anna Gillespie

map showing location of Marsupial Lion Australia: Hiatus Site, Boodjamulla National Park, NW QueenslandGoogle Maps view

About the Lion

Wakaleo schouteni
Location: Australia

In the late Oligocene, which ended about 23 million years ago as the Miocene arrived, a marsupial lion, Wakaleo schouteni, roamed Australia's open forest habitat in northwestern Queensland, stalking its prey. Scientists from the University of New South Wales recovered fossils in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in Queensland that proved to be a previously unknown fossil marsupial lion. Weighing in at about 50 pounds, more or less the size of a Siberian husky dog, this predator spent part of its time in trees. Its teeth suggest that it was not completely reliant on meat but was, rather, an omnivore. It is part of a lineage (the genus Wakaleo) that followed Cope's rule during the Miocene, increasing in size through time, possibly in response to larger prey that, in turn, evolved as the flora changed as the continent became drier and cooler. Based on their discovery, researchers believe two species of marsupial lion were present in the late Oligocene 25 million years ago. The other, Wakaleo pitikantensis, was slightly smaller and was identified from teeth and limb bones discovered near Lake Pitikanta in South Australia in 1961.

Etymology The new species was named in honor of paleoartist Peter Schouten.

Type locality Australia: Hiatus Site, Riversleigh WHA, Boodjamulla National Park, north-western Queensland

Type Queensland Museum

Description Gillespie, A.K., Archer, M., and S.J. Hand (2017) A new Oligo-Miocene marsupial lion from Australia and revision of the family Thylacoleonidae.  Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.  DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1391885

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