Researchers discover ‘giant lion’ fossil in Kenya


A new species of giant mammal was identified on Thursday after researchers investigated bones that had been kept for decades in a drawer at the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya.

Researchers said the bones belonged to a giant lion with enormous fangs that roamed the Kenyan Savannah more than 20 million years ago and was one of the largest ever meat-eating mammals.

The species, dubbed “Simbakubwa kutokaafrika” meaning “big African lion” in Swahili, was part of a now extinct group of mammals called hyaenodonts.

The National Geographic reported that they were called hyaenodonts because their teeth resemble those of a modern hyena, although they were not related to hyenas.

They calculated it would have weighed up to 1,500 kilograms and could have preyed upon the elephant-like creatures that lived there at the time.

A modern lion skull from Kenya (top) next to the left jaw of the 22-million-year-old carnivore Simbakubwa kutokaafrika (National Geographic)

Bigger than any carnivorous land mammal alive today – even a polar bear – Simbakubwa’s skull was the size of a rhino’s, its eight-inch (20-cm) canine teeth as large as bananas. It weighed about a ton and was 8 feet long (2-1/2 meters) snout to rump.

According to the research published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the fossils were excavated around 1980 in western Kenya and never closely examined.

An illustration shows how a modern human would have measured up against Simbakubwa kutokaafrika. (National Geographic)

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