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tapir

tapir (tā´pər), nocturnal, herbivorous mammal, genus Tapirus, of the jungles of Central and South America and SE Asia. The tapir is somewhat piglike in appearance; however, it is not related to the pig, but to the horse and the rhinoceros, with which it forms the order of odd-toed hoofed mammals. The body of the tapir is rounded and covered with sparse fur. Its snout is long and flexible. The legs are short and end in broad feet with hoofed toes; there are four toes on the front feet and five on the hind feet. Tapirs live in dense forest, browsing by night on leaves and twigs. Usually found near water, they swim well and drink a great deal. They often take to water when threatened and can crash through thick underbrush with great speed.

The Asian, or Malayan, tapir, T. indicus, of Malaya and Sumatra, is black with a white saddle extending over the rump. The adult is about 3 ft (90 cm) high at the shoulder and 6 to 8 ft (180–240 cm) long; it weighs about 650 lb (300 kg). The Malayan tapir is considered endangered. There are three New World species. The South American, or Brazilian, tapir, T. terrestris, inhabits marshy lowlands from Colombia to N Argentina. The adult, a little smaller than the Asian species, is a uniform dark brown, but the young is conspicuously striped and spotted. The Central American, or Baird's, tapir, T. bairdi, is similarly colored but almost as large as a donkey. It is found in undisturbed rain forests from S Mexico to NW South America; because of the continuous elimination of this habitat the existence of this species is threatened. The mountain tapir, T. pinchaque, is found at high altitudes in the Andes Mts. and has thick, black fur.

Tapirs were widely distributed in tropical regions until the Pleistocene epoch, when most species became extinct. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Perissodactyla, family Tapiridae.

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Tapiridae

Tapiridae (tapirs; suborder Ceratomorpha, superfamily Tapiroidea) A family of solitary, nocturnal ceratomorphs which are little different from the perissodactyl stock that lived during the late Eocene and Oligocene. Many tapir-like forms are known from the Eocene, and sometimes are grouped as Lophiodontidae. The limbs are short, with three digits on the hind feet and four on the fore feet. The digits bear small hoofs, but the soles of the feet also have thick pads. The ulna and fibula are complete and unfused. The teeth are complete in number, low-crowned, and lack cement except for the first three premolars. The nose has developed into a short, mobile trunk, with an associated shortening of the nasal bones. Tapirs live mainly in dense forest, feeding on fruit and vegetation, in tropical Central and S. America, and in south-east Asia. There are four species, in two genera, Tapirus (American) and Acrocodia (Asian).

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tapir

ta·pir / ˈtāpər/ • n. a nocturnal hoofed mammal (family Tapiridae, genus Tapirus) with a stout body, sturdy limbs, and a short flexible proboscis, native to the forests of tropical America and Malaysia. Four species include the reddish-brown or black mountain tapir (T. pinchaque), which is the smallest tapir.

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tapir

tapir Any of several species of nocturnal, plant-eating, hoofed mammals native to forests of tropical South America and Malaysia. The tapir has a large head, a long, flexible snout, a heavy body, short legs, and a tiny tail. Length: to 2.5m (7.5ft). Family Tapiridae; genus Tapirus.

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tapir

tapir swine-like animal of tropical America. XVIII. — Tupi tapira.

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tapir

tapir (Tapirus) See TAPIRIDAE.

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tapir

tapir •Dampier •Napier, rapier, tapir •Shakespeare • sepia • Olympia •copier • compeer • photocopier •cornucopia, dystopia, Ethiopia, myopia, subtopia, Utopia

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Tapir

Tapir

Tapir, mammal related to the horse and rhinoceros. There are three species in the Americas: Tapirus terrestris (Brazilian tapir), Tapir pinchaque (mountain tapir), and Tapir Bairdii (Baird's tapir). The tapir looks like a combination of its two closest relatives and a large pig: it is of short stature, with a heavy body, a thick neck, a prehensile upper lip forming a short, movable trunk, a short tail, and four toes on the front feet and three on the hind feet.

American tapirs, which have dark brown coats, were widely hunted by natives for their highly valued meat and their supposed supernatural healing powers. Their range is from Mexico to South America.

All are threatened with extinction due mainly to destruction of their sole habitat: tropical rain forests. All are legally protected.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Erwin Patzelt, Fauna del Ecuador (1989), pp. 89-91.

Luigi Boitani and Stefania Bartoli, Simon and Schuster's Guide to Mammals (1982), p. 345.

Francesco B. Salvatori, Rare Animals of the World (1990), pp. 90, 147.

Additional Bibliography

Brooks, Daniel M.; Richard E. Bodmer; and Sharon Matola. Tapirs: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1997.

Royte, Elizabeth. The Tapir's Morning Bath: Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest and the Scientists Who Are Trying to Solve Them. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

                                         RaÚl CucalÓn

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