Ancient Gigantic Lion Discovered in Kenya

  • Image showing Lion brothers nuzzling one another on the grasslands of Masai Mara, Kenya File
  • An article published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on Thursday revealed that an ancient gigantic lion roamed the Kenyan savannah approximately 23 million years ago.

    The lion, dubbed Simbakubwa, lived in what is modern-day Kenya according to research carried out by from a team from Duke and Ohio University who studied a handful of mysterious fossils tucked away safely in a drawer at the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya.

    Records at the museum showed that the fossils had been excavated between 1978 and 1980 at a site in western Kenya called Meswa Bridge.

    An artist's impression of simbakubwa courtesy of AFP

    Researchers reportedly unearthed the lower jaw, teeth and other bones of a new species and christened it Simbakubwa kutokaafrika.

    "Based on its massive teeth, Simbakubwa was a specialised hyper-carnivore that was significantly larger than the modern lion and possibly larger than a polar bear," revealed Matthew Borths from Duke University.

    Based on the sizes of the various bones that were discovered, the team of researchers estimated that Simbakubwa may have weighed as much as 1.5 tonnes when fully mature.

    The sheer size of the carnivore coupled with its enormous fangs led the scientists to predict that it most likely hunted ancient mammoths and elephants.

    While a modern day lion's jaw measures approximately 25cm at full maturity, Simbakubwa's discovered jaw measured almost double as it was documented at 40cm.

    The animal has been declared the oldest known member in a group of extinct mammals called hyaenodonts, named mainly due to their dental resemblance to hyenas, even though the groups are also unrelated.

    According to a National Geographic report, Mr Borths made the discovery while doing research at the Nairobi museum where he found unusual fossils in a cabinet that was part of a collection marked hyenas.

    Factfile on an ancient giant predator that lived 23 million years ago in Africa AFP/Jonathan Walter