Fossil remains have been discovered in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of Queensland, Australia, and appear to belong to a new kind of tiny marsupial lion.
The extinct, squirrel-size animal weighed about 1.3 pounds, very likely lived in trees and had teeth that suggest it was capable of ripping apart other small creatures with its molars.
The researchers named it Microleo attenboroughi in honor of Sir David Attenborough, the famed British naturalist who has hosted numerous documentaries on wildlife.
As the researchers write in their study, published in the online journal Palaeontologia Electronica, the etymology of the name is:
“From micro meaning small (Greek) and leo meaning lion (Latin). The species name honors Sir David Attenborough for his dedication and enthusiasm in promoting the natural history of the world and the palaeontological treasures of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in particular.”
Micro lion Sir David Attenborough closely related to wombats
National Geographic said the micro lion belongs to an extinct prehistoric family that is closely connected to koalas and wombats. There are nine species in the family, including the Thylacoleo carnifex, which lived in Australia as recently as 46,000 years ago.
“The Microleo attenboroughi would have been more like the cute but still feisty kitten of the family,” said Anna Gillespie, the lead author on the lion’s study. “It was not lion-size or even bob-cat-size. Weighing only about 600 grams, it was more like a ringtail possum in size.”
Anna Gillespie, one of the study researchers, says M. attenboroughi would have been the “feisty kitten” of the Thylacoleonidae family.
“It was not lion-size or even bob-cat-size,” says Gillespie.
The findings of the new report are published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.