News Good News The top 10 new species – including an Australian lion

The top 10 new species – including an Australian lion

Wakaleo schouteni
The Wakaleo schouteni hunted in the forests of Queensland 23 milion years ago. Photo: Peter Schouten
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A marsupial lion the size of a large dog that roamed Australia more than 20 million years ago has been included on a global list of the top 10 newly-discovered species.

The 11th annual list compiled by the International Institute of Species Exploration (IISW) includes microbes, plants, animals and exotic sea creatures.

The list is traditionally published to highlight the diversity of species on earth, especially the endangered ones, and encourage their conservation.

But among the rare and endangered creatures highlighted this year is Wakaleo schouteni, a predatory marsupial thought to have hunted the open forest habitat in northwestern Queensland in the late Oligocene period, which ended about 23 million years ago.

Scientists from the University of New South Wales recovered fossils in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in Queensland that proved to be a previously unknown fossil marsupial lion, the IISW said.

The ‘lion’ was thought to have weighed around 23 kilograms, was the size of a collie dog and spent at least part of its time in trees.

Its teeth suggested it was not completely reliant on meat but was, instead, an omnivore.

One of Wakaleo schouteni’s discoverers, Anna Gillespie, last year wrote it was highly likely the animal “pursued its prey – small vertebrates like lizards, frogs, birds and small mammals – through the tree-tops of these forests”.

“Previously, species of Wakaleo were known from younger sites that spanned the middle Miocene to the late Miocene era, dating to approximately 17 million to 5 million years ago,” she wrote in The Conversation.

The new species was named in honour of acclaimed Australian paleoartist Peter Schouten.

The 10 species on the IISW list were selected by the institute’s international committee of taxonomists from some 18,000 new species named in 2017.

The Top 10

Protist (Ancoracysta twista)

This single-celled protist was found living on a brain coral in a tropical aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Photo: Denis V Tiknonenkov

Atlantic forest tree (Dinizia jueirana-facao)

A 40-metre, 56-tonne tree found in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, home to half of the country’s threatened species.

Photo: Guilym F Lewis

Amphipod (Epimeria Quasimodo)

A brightly coloured, 5cm, humped-back crustacean (hence the Quasimodo name) found in icy waters south of the Antarctic Polar Front. 

Photo: Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Baffling beetle (Nymphister kronaueri)

This tiny beetle, measuring just 1.5 millimetres long, lives alongside a species of nomadic army ant. When the ant colony moves every two to three weeks, the beetle joins them, attaching itself to the ants and living off their labours.

Photo: D Kronauer

Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)

The most endangered great ape in the world, these diminutive primates are isolated from other species of Sumatra. The male orangutans stand under 5 feet tall, while the females are under 4 feet, which is similar to other orangutans.

new species
Photo: Andrew Walmsley

Swire’s snailfish (Pseudoliparis swirei)

The fish resembles a tadpole and lives at the bottom of the Western Pacific’s Mariana Trench. The name can be traced to one of the officers from the HMS Challenger, which discovered the trench in 1875.

Photo: Mackenzie Gerringer, University of Washington

Heterotrophic flower (Sciaphila sugimotoi)

A critically endangered but gorgeous flower on Japan’s Ishigaki Island that produces small blossoms in September and October. While most plants capture energy from the sun to grow via photosynthesis, the flower receives nutrition from fungus without harming it. 

Photo: Takaomi Sugimoto

Volcanic bacterium (Thiolava veneris)

The eruption of the Tagoro volcano off the coast of the Canary Islands in 2011 killed off several marine ecosystems, but gave birth to a proteobacteria in the new toxic environment. Named “Venus’ hair,” the bacteria formed a white mat making up nearly half an acre around Tagoro’s volcanic cone. 

Photo: Miquel Canals, University of Barcelona

Marsupial lion (Wakaleo schouteni)

The marsupial lion lived in the open forest about 23 million years ago and spent part of its life in trees. As big as a collie dog, the omnivore was thought to have increased in size as the Queensland climate became drier and cooler. 

Fossilised skull of the Wakaleo schouteni. Photo: Anna Gillespie

Cave beetle (Xuedytes bellus)

Found in a cave in Guangxi province, southern China, this beetle adapted to have long spider-like legs, a compact body and no flight wings, eyes or pigmentation. It is just over a centimetre long and has an elongated head.

Photo: Greg Rouse

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