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Leptictidium

Reconstruction of Leptictidium from DVD "Walking with Beasts"

Leptictidium (graceful weasels), was one of the mammal species that survived the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event and lived well into the Eocene. Some perfectly preserved fossils of Leptictidium have been found in the Messel shales. They were 60-90cm long from nose to tail, weighing only two to four kilograms. They were warm-blooded, which enabled them to be active early in the morning when cold blooded animals were still sluggish. They were equipped with long mobile and sensitive noses, similar to today's elephant shrews, and with supersonic hearing that helped them to locate their prey. They were always on the hunt for food to satisfy their never-ending appetite, as a fast metabolism was the price they had to pay for being warm-blooded. They were carnivorous, eating other small mammals, lizards and invertebrates, which they hunted mainly in the early mornings and at dusk, when it was safer for them to be out in the forest. They moved around by hopping kangaroo-style, with short front legs and large back legs. (1)