Image: Peter Schouten, Journal of Systematic Palaeontology

Researchers have discovered a dog-sized marsupial lion that roamed the Australian rainforests about 18 to 26 million years ago and used knife-like teeth it used to ravage its prey.

From the fossilized remains of the animal’s skull, teeth, and humerus, a team of Australian scientists determined the animal, named Wakaleo schouteni, was omnivorous and weighed about fifty pounds. The prehistoric predator had a small head and sharp teeth characteristic of other marsupial lions, which it used to tear through plant and flesh matter.

The scientists also noted dental and skull similarities between Wakaleo schouteni and Wakaleo pitikantensis, a sightly smaller species that was also present during the late Oligocene and was discovered in South Australia in 1961. These similarities include the presence of three upper premolars and four molars and also lead scientists to believe that these two species were the most primitive members of their genus.

“The identification of these new species have brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family,” stated lead author Dr. Anna Gillespie in a statement.

Thylacoleo skeleton, last surviving marsupial lion. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Marsupial lions are regarded as the largest meat-eating mammals to have ever existed in Australia and one of the largest on the planet. In addition, the long-extinct creatures had the strongest bite of any known mammal, comparable to that of a much larger African lion.

The recent discovery is published in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.