Newly Discovered "Mini Marsupial Lion" Named After David Attenborough

By James O Malley on at

Australian scientists have named a newly discovered species of tiny marsupial lion after Sir David Attenborough.

Now sadly extinct as of 18 millions years ago, Microleo attenboroughi, the animal would have prowled the rainforests of Northern Australia.

Microleo attenboroughi would have been more like the cute but still feisty kitten of the family,” lead study author Dr Anna Gillespie from the University of New South Wales is quoted as saying, adding that "It was not lion-size or even bob-cat-size. Weighing only about 600 grams, it was more like a ringtail possum in size.”

For Giz readers, that translates to weighing slightly less than an iPad Air, or about the same as a Bottle of Malibu.

The creature is the smallest in its family of animals, and it was discovered after a skull and teeth were found in limestone deposits formed in a rainforest pool during the Miocene era. The same deposit is also responsible for a host of other new species, including six different types of bandicoot, various possums and kangaroos - and even "diminutive koalas".

"Microleo shared these northern Miocene rainforests with two larger species of marsupial lion, one cat-sized and the other dog-sized", Dr Gillespie explains in the press release. “Although it is possible they competed with one other, the size differences probably means they each specialised on a different size range of prey."

"It’s likely that Microleo scampered amongst the tree-tops, gobbling insects as well as small vertebrates such as lizards and birds while simultaneously trying to avoid becoming a prey item for its larger relatives", she is quote as saying.

UNSW say the decision to name the creature after Sir David is not because he was the person who first introduced snooker to television when he was controller of BBC Two, but in recognition of his support for the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, which he apparently described as one of the four most important fossil areas in the world.