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Fierce new species of marsupial lion discovered in Australia was 'somewhere between a koala and a wombat' with massive thumb-claws and 'fangs used for garroting prey'

  • University of NSW palaeontologists discover Wakaleo schouteni marsupial lion
  • Predator stalked Queensland rainforests before extinction 19 million years ago
  • Prehistoric animal stood about the size of a dog and weighed about 23kg
  • Used a gigantic thumb claw to shimmy up trees to slash the throat of its victims 

Australian scientists have discovered a new species of marsupial lion with a 'gigantic thumb claw' that went extinct 19 million years ago.

Wakaleo schouteni was a predator that stalked Australia's abundant rainforests, standing about the size of a dog and weighing 23kg.

Fossils of its skull, upper arm, and teeth were found in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of remote north-western Queensland by University of NSW palaeontologists. 

Australian scientists have discovered a new species of marsupial lion, Wakaleo schouteni, with a 'gigantic thumb claw' that went extinct 19 million years ago

The findings are based on the discovery of fossilised remains of an animal's skull (pictured), teeth and upper arm bone found a remote area in north-western Queensland

The scientists named the new species after wildlife artist Peter Schouten who painted many of the team's earlier discoveries.

Mr Schouten said the animal sat somewhere between the koala and the wombat on the evolutionary tree and were not cat like despite their name.

'They're tremendously interesting things. For instance, a lion will use its huge canines for stabbing with,' he told the Manning River Times.

'This thing has got hugely enlarged lower incisors – they're like a pair of stilettos that it uses for stabbing or garroting.

'It's also got a gigantic thumb claw which it uses for slashing and presumably it's also adapted for climbing in trees. 

'There's been a lot of work done on limb mechanics of these things and it shows that it had a wide range of movements from being able to shimmy up trees to be able to slash the throat of its victims.' 

The scientists named the new species after wildlife artist Peter Schouten (pictured) who painted many of the team's earlier discoveries

Fossils of its skull, upper arm, and teeth were found in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area (pictured) of remote north-western Queensland by University of NSW palaeontologists

The findings, published in Journal of Systematic Palaeontology on Thursday, suggested there were more species of marsupial lion once living in Australia.

Schouteni appeared to be one of the earlier, more primitive types and much smaller than Thylacoleo carnifex, which weighed about 130kg and went extinct for 30,000 years ago.

The discovery came just a year after the fossilised remains of a kitten-sized marsupial lion were found in the same famous fossil site in Queensland. 

The UNSW scientists named that miniature predator Microleo attenboroughi after broadcasting legend Sir David Attenborough. 

The fossils were found in Riversleigh World Heritage Area. Members of this family had 'highly distinct' large, blade-like, flesh-cutting premolars that they used to tear up prey

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