The Student’s Elements of Geology

Author: Charles Lyell

Triassic Mammifer.

(FIGURE 389. Microlestes antiquus, Plieninger. Molar tooth, magnified. Upper Trias. Diegerloch, near Stuttgart, Wurtemberg. a. View of inner side? b. Same, outer side? c. Same in profile. d. Crown of same.)

In North-western Germany, as in England, there occurs beneath the Lias a remarkable bone breccia. It is filled with shells and with the remains of fishes and reptiles, almost all the genera of which, and some even of the species, agree with those of the subjacent Trias. This breccia has accordingly been considered by Professor Quenstedt, and other German geologists of high authority, as the newest or uppermost part of the Trias. Professor Plieninger found in it, in 1847, the molar tooth of a small Triassic mammifer, called by him Microlestes antiquus. He inferred its true nature from its double fangs, and from the form and number of the protuberances or cusps on the flat crown; and considering it as predaceous, probably insectivorous, he called it Microlestes from micros, little, and lestes, a beast of prey. Soon afterwards he found a second tooth, also at the same locality, Diegerloch, about two miles to the south-east of Stuttgart.

No anatomist had been able to give any feasible conjecture as to the affinities of this minute quadruped until Dr. Falconer, in 1857, recognised an unmistakable resemblance between its teeth and the two back molars of his new genus Plagiaulax (Figure 306), from the Purbeck strata. This would lead us to the conclusion that Microlestes was marsupial and plant-eating.

In Wurtemberg there are two bone-beds, namely, that containing the Microlestes, which has just been described, which constitutes, as we have seen, the uppermost member of the Trias, and another of still greater extent, and still more rich in the remains of fish and reptiles, which is of older date, intervening between the Keuper and Muschelkalk.

The genera Saurichthys, Hybodus, and Gyrolepis are found in both these breccias, and one of the species, Saurichthys Mongeoti, is common to both bone-beds, as is also a remarkable reptile called Nothosaurus mirabilis. The saurian called Belodon by H. von Meyer, of the Thecodont family, is another Triassic form, associated at Diegerloch with Microlestes.


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Chicago: Charles Lyell, "Triassic Mammifer.," The Student’s Elements of Geology, ed. Bryant Conant, James and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in The Student’s Elements of Geology Original Sources, accessed January 22, 2019,

MLA: Lyell, Charles. "Triassic Mammifer." The Student’s Elements of Geology, edited by Bryant Conant, James, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in The Student’s Elements of Geology, Original Sources. 22 Jan. 2019.

Harvard: Lyell, C, 'Triassic Mammifer.' in The Student’s Elements of Geology, ed. and trans. . cited in , The Student’s Elements of Geology. Original Sources, retrieved 22 January 2019, from