Terrifying New Species of Extinct Marsupial Lion Discovered
Have you ever heard of “marsupial lions?” Well, you’re about to hear a lot about them. The marsupial lion is a group of extinct mammals and scientists have just discovered one that was a true giant. It’s called “Wakaleo schouteni,” a prehistoric beast that lived in the rainforest and grew to be about fifty pounds. It lived during the late Oligocene and early Miocene eras, about 18 to 26 million years in the past. Considering the fact that it had a mouth full of blade-shaped teeth and ate meat, it’s maybe a comforting fact that they are long extinct.
The lions were omnivores, eating both animal prey and vegetation. The discovery of this new marsupial lion opens up our appreciation of how diverse the family of animals may have been.
“The identification of these new species has brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family,” said Anna Gillespie, the study’s lead author.
We already knew about a smaller marsupial lion, the M. attenboroughi. The M. attenboroughi was about the size of a squirrel, also a tree-climing marsupial lion that roamed Australia’s rainforests. Also like the W. schouteni, it was an arboreal animal, meaning it spent most of its life above ground.
It was previously believed that no two distinct species of marsupial lions ever lived concurrently.
Christine Janis, a palentologist, says, “They would have been around at the same time. They’re actually known from the same particular fossil site. They would have been very different in size and so would have been different kinds of predators.”
Although the newly discovered marsupial lion was only about the size of a dog, it was a fearsome predator. Its bite would have been stronger than that of any lion alive today. You can tell by the known marsupial lion species’ names that they were a force to be reckoned with. There was the “pouched lion executioner” (Thylacoleo carnife) and the “hypercarnivore,” (Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum) which both sound like pro wrestlers or monster trucks.
Koala bears and wombats are closely related to the marsupial lions, which also had pouches. They are not, however, related to actual lions. The term “lion” is sometimes used to connote status as a megafauna predator. Janis, who affectionately calls the marsupial lions “rogue possums,” says that they became more and more predatory over the course of their evolution, and eventually transitioned to life spent mostly on the ground.
“We’re filling in what the hypothesis sort of was on what the ancestry would have been like,” she says.