views updated May 18 2018

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).


views updated May 23 2018


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.


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


views updated May 18 2018

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.


views updated Jun 08 2018

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.


views updated May 21 2018

tapir (Tapirus) See TAPIRIDAE.


views updated May 29 2018

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