• An artist's drawing of Microleo Attenboroughi. Photo credit: Keep it Clever AustraliaAn artist's drawing of Microleo Attenboroughi. Photo credit: Keep it Clever Australia

Attenborough’s Lion – a new discovery by UNSW researchers

Researchers at UNSW Australia have recently discovered the fossil of a tiny marsupial lion that lived in the tropical forests of Northern Australia about 18 million years ago, and they’ve named it after David Attenborough.

It’s not the first animal, or even the first prehistoric animal to be named after Sir David Attenborough, the famous broadcaster and naturalist has nine other species bearing his name.

Microleo attenboroughi was a diminutive marsupial lion, weighing in at just 600 grams. This tiny creature most likely prowled the treetops, gobbling insects as well as small vertebrates such as lizards and birds.   It lived alongside two other marsupial lions – one cat-sized and one dog-sized, but only one complete specimen of this particular species has been found so far.

The specimen was found in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, which is known for its abundance of fossils and which David Attenborough has been a keen supporter of, describing it as one of the four most important fossil areas in the world.

The UNSW researchers still have many questions to be answered about the lifestyle of the little lion and are looking for further specimens in the Riversleigh area.

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