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Leptictidium was a prehistoric mammal (a leptictidan), featured in Walking with Beasts. It was a small leptictidan mammal from the early Eocene (56-40 million years ago) that hopped like kangaroos do today, but it was a placental (eutherian, thought Leptictidium and kin are outside placentalia, which includes all modern placentals) mammal that is not closely related to any of the modern species. (There is still much speculation about the coloration of the Leptictidium per se, but the one seen in WWB are white, with brown upper parts with white horizontal stripes.) Hopping aside, in the front Leptictidium resembled the modern elephant shrews or sengus, primitive mammals, which can still be found today mostly in the African savanna.

Evi gastornis large

Gastornis hunting Leptictidium.

Just like them, it was a small animal less than a meter in height, and thus it was prey for various carnivores, such as Gastornis and Ambulocetus.

Facts

Leptictidium was a small mammal - about a meter in length - and a common sight in the forests of 50 MYA. Their kind had survived virtually unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. A typical mammal, the females looked after their offspring until they're old enough to fend for themselves. And they hunted whatever the risk. The cool early morning was an ideal time for them to catch the frogs, lizards, and insects they fed on.
Evi leptictidium large

A Leptictidium family.

They were warm–blooded and fast–moving 24 hours a day. Also, to help track down their prey, Leptictidium had an incredibly acute sense of hearing and a distinctive super–sensitive nose that could twitch to locate food among leaf litter. And they were agile enough to catch even flying insects. Leptictidium needed a lot of food for their size. Like all mammals, this was a price they paid for a warm–blooded metabolism.

There is still much speculation about the coloration of the Leptictidium per se, but the one seen in WWB are white, with brown upper parts with white horizontal stripes.

Hopping aside, in the front Leptictidium resembled the modern elephant shrews or sengus, primitive mammals, which can still be found today mostly in the African savanna. Just like them, it was a small animal less than a meter in height, and thus it was prey for various carnivores, such as Gastornis and Ambulocetus.

In Walking with... Series

Walking with Beasts

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The Leptictidium puppet used for Walking with Beasts

New Dawn

In the first episode of Walking with Beasts, a female Leptictidium was shown caring for her partially grown-up young and was the main mammalian focus of the episode, illustrating the development of the first mammals after the extinction of the dinosaurs in the K-T extinction event. It was shown as an evolutionary dead branch, doomed to extinction as the jungles of the Early Eocene began to disappear, as opposed to Ambulocetus, who was going to evolve into new species of whales instead.

0101leptictidium

Notes and references

  1. Leptoctidium Evidence. Walking with Beasts BBC website/Walking with Beasts ABC website.

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