Miniature lion fossils lead to discovery of new species

Brittany A. Roston - Aug 29, 2016, 6:13pm CDT
Miniature lion fossils lead to discovery of new species

A new species of miniature marsupial lion has been discovered thanks to a newly uncovered fossil found in Queensland. The new species has been dubbed the Microleo attenboroughi, in honor of Sir Attenborough and in recognition of the creature’s small size. The miniature lion is said to have lived in Northern Australia’s rainforests about 18 million years ago.

The fossil was found by researchers in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, a hotspot for fossils. As of now, the Microleo takes the honor of being the smallest member of the (now extinct) marsupial lion family; researchers estimate it would have been about the size of a ringtail possum, or about 600 grams in weight.

This information is based on the fossil discovery, which consisted of a partial skull with some teeth found in a limestone deposit. This particular deposit has itself proven plentiful when it comes to fossils, having turned up the remains of half a dozen or more varieties of bandicoots, not to mention thousands of bats, pythons, lizards, fish, and even things like kangaroos and platypuses with teeth.

Though tiny in size, the marsupial lion ate meat and probably wouldn’t have been something that you’d want to handle. Researchers think the micro lion probably ate insects and small critters like birds and lizards, though given its small size, it was probably also a food source for larger meat eaters that existed at the time.

SOURCE: UNSW Australian


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