Tapir

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Tapir
Temporal range: 55–0  Ma
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South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris).JPG
Brazilian tapir
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Tapiridae
Gray, 1821
Genus:Tapirus
Brünnich, 1772
Extant species

Tapirus bairdii
Tapirus kabomani
Tapirus indicus
Tapirus pinchaque
Tapirus terrestris

Contents

A tapir ( /ˈtpər/ TAY-pər, /ˈtpɪər/ TAY-peer or /təˈpɪər/ tə-PEER, /ˈtpər/ TAY-pee-ər)[ citation needed ] is a large, herbivorous mammal, similar in shape to a pig, with a short, prehensile nose trunk. Tapirs inhabit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia. The five extant species of tapirs, all of the family Tapiridae and the genus Tapirus, are the Brazilian tapir, the Malayan tapir, the Baird's tapir, the kabomani tapir and the mountain tapir. The four species that have been evaluated (all except the kabomani) are all classified on the IUCN Red List as Endangered or Vulnerable. The tapirs have a number of extinct relatives in the superfamily Tapiroidea. The closest extant relatives of the tapirs are the other odd-toed ungulates, which include horses, donkeys, zebras and rhinoceroses.

Mammal class of tetrapods

Mammals are vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia, and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and birds, from which they diverged in the late Triassic, 201–227 million years ago. There are around 5,450 species of mammals. The largest orders are the rodents, bats and Soricomorpha. The next three are the Primates, the Cetartiodactyla, and the Carnivora.

Species

Five extant species within one extant genus are widely recognised. Four are in Central and South America, while the fifth is in Asia. [1] (Some authors describe more, and a number are extinct):

Extant

New World species

  • Baird's tapir (also called the Central American tapir), Tapirus bairdii(Gill, 1865)
  • South American tapir (also called the Brazilian tapir or lowland tapir), Tapirus terrestris(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Little black tapir (also called the kabomani tapir), Tapirus kabomani(Cozzuol et al., 2013 [1] )
  • Mountain tapir (also called the woolly tapir), Tapirus pinchaque(Roulin, 1829)
Bairds tapir species of mammal

Baird's tapir, also known as the Central American tapir, is a species of tapir native to Mexico, Central America and northwestern South America. It is one of four Latin American species of tapir.

South American tapir species of mammal

The South American tapir, also commonly called the Brazilian tapir, the Amazonian tapir, the maned tapir, the lowland tapir, in Portuguese anta, and in mixed Quechua and Spanish sachavaca, is one of the five species in the tapir family, along with the mountain tapir, the Malayan tapir, Baird's tapir, and the little black tapir. The South American tapir is the largest surviving native terrestrial mammal in the Amazon.

<i>Tapirus kabomani</i> species of tapir

Tapirus kabomani is one of five extant species of tapir, large browsing mammals similar in shape to a pig. It is the smallest tapir species, even smaller than the mountain tapir, which had been considered the smallest. T. kabomani is found in the Amazon rainforest, where it appears to be sympatric with the South American tapir. When it was announced in December 2013, T. kabomani was the first odd-toed ungulate discovered in over 100 years. T. kabomani has not been recognized by the Tapir Specialist Group as a distinct species and recent genetic evidence further suggests it is actually nested within T. terrestris.

Old World species

  • Malayan tapir (also called the Asian tapir or Indian tapir), Tapirus indicus(Desmarest, 1819)
Malayan tapir largest of the five species of tapir and the only one native to Asia

The Malayan tapir, also called the Asian tapir, Oriental tapir, Indian tapir, or piebald tapir, is the largest of the five species of tapir and the only one native to Asia. The scientific name refers to the East Indies, the species' natural habitat. In the Malay language, the tapir is commonly referred to as cipan, tenuk or badak tampung.

Extinct

Giant tapir species of mammal

The giant tapir is an extinct tapir that lived in southern China, reports also suggest it also lived in Java and Vietnam. Evidence suggests that the species first appeared in the Early Pleistocene and possibly survived until the early Holocene. It was larger on average than modern tapirs, estimations range from 2.1 metres (6.9 ft) long and 0.9 metres (3.0 ft) tall at the shoulders to 3.5 metres (11 ft) long, and 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) metres tall at the shoulders. It may have weighed up to 500 kilograms (1,100 lb). The species was also placed in its own genus of Megatapirus, however, it is now conventionally placed within Tapirus.

Tapirus californicus, sometimes called the California tapir, is an extinct species of tapir that inhabited North America during the Pleistocene. It became extinct about 13,000 years ago.

Tapirus copei, commonly known as Cope's Tapir, is an extinct species of tapir that inhabited North America during the early to middle Pleistocene Epoch. The fossil remains of two juvenile Tapirus copei were collected in Hillsborough County, Florida on 31 August 1963. It was the second largest North American tapir; the first being Tapirus merriami.

General appearance

(video) A tapir at Ueno Zoo.

Size varies between types, but most tapirs are about 2 m (6.6 ft) long, stand about 1 m (3 ft) high at the shoulder, and weigh between 150 and 300 kg (330 and 700 lb). Their coats are short and range in color from reddish brown, to grey, to nearly black, with the notable exceptions of the Malayan tapir, which has a white, saddle-shaped marking on its back, and the mountain tapir, which has longer, woolly fur. All tapirs have oval, white-tipped ears, rounded, protruding rumps with stubby tails, and splayed, hooved toes, with four toes on the front feet and three on the hind feet, which help them to walk on muddy and soft ground. Baby tapirs of all types have striped-and-spotted coats for camouflage. Females have a single pair of mammary glands, [2] and males have long penises relative to their body size. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Camouflage concealment through color or pattern

Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see (crypsis), or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). Examples include the leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier, and the leaf-mimic katydid's wings. A third approach, motion dazzle, confuses the observer with a conspicuous pattern, making the object visible but momentarily harder to locate. The majority of camouflage methods aim for crypsis, often through a general resemblance to the background, high contrast disruptive coloration, eliminating shadow, and countershading. In the open ocean, where there is no background, the principal methods of camouflage are transparency, silvering, and countershading, while the ability to produce light is among other things used for counter-illumination on the undersides of cephalopods such as squid. Some animals, such as chameleons and octopuses, are capable of actively changing their skin pattern and colours, whether for camouflage or for signalling. It is possible that some plants use camouflage to evade being eaten by herbivores.

Physical characteristics

Tapir showing the flehmen response Tapirus.terrestris.flehmen.jpg
Tapir showing the flehmen response

The proboscis of the tapir is a highly flexible organ, able to move in all directions, allowing the animals to grab foliage that would otherwise be out of reach. Tapirs often exhibit the flehmen response, a posture in which they raise their snouts and show their teeth to detect scents. This response is frequently exhibited by bulls sniffing for signs of other males or females in oestrus in the area. The length of the proboscis varies among species; Malayan tapirs have the longest snouts and Brazilian tapirs have the shortest. [8] The evolution of tapir probosces, made up almost entirely of soft tissues rather than bony internal structures, gives the Tapiridae skull a unique form in comparison to other perissodactyls, with a larger sagittal crest, orbits positioned more rostrally, a posteriorly telescoped cranium, and a more elongated and retracted nasoincisive incisure. [8] [9]

Tapirs have brachyodont, or low-crowned teeth, that lack cementum. Their dental formula is:

Dentition
3.1.4.3
3.1.3–4.3

Totaling 42 to 44 teeth, this dentition is closer to that of equids, which may differ by one less canine, than their other perissodactyl relatives, rhinoceroses. [10] [11] Their incisors are chisel-shaped, with the third large, conical upper incisor separated by a short gap from the considerably smaller canine. A much longer gap is found between the canines and premolars, the first of which may be absent. [12] Tapirs are lophodonts, and their cheek teeth have distinct lophs (ridges) between protocones, paracones, metacones and hypocones. [13] [14]

Tapirs have brown eyes, often with a bluish cast to them, which has been identified as corneal cloudiness, a condition most commonly found in Malayan tapirs. The exact etiology is unknown, but the cloudiness may be caused by excessive exposure to light or by trauma. [15] [16] However, the tapir's sensitive ears and strong sense of smell help to compensate for deficiencies in vision.

Tapirs have simple stomachs and are hindgut fermenters that ferment digested food in a large cecum. [17]

Lifecycle

Young tapirs reach sexual maturity between three and five years of age, with females maturing earlier than males. [18] Under good conditions, a healthy female tapir can reproduce every two years; a single young, called a calf, is born after a gestation of about 13 months. [19] The natural lifespan of a tapir is about 25 to 30 years, both in the wild and in zoos. [20] Apart from mothers and their young offspring, tapirs lead almost exclusively solitary lives.

Behavior

Although they frequently live in dryland forests, tapirs with access to rivers spend a good deal of time in and underwater, feeding on soft vegetation, taking refuge from predators, and cooling off during hot periods. Tapirs near a water source will swim, sink to the bottom, and walk along the riverbed to feed, and have been known to submerge themselves under water to allow small fish to pick parasites off their bulky bodies. [20] Along with freshwater lounging, tapirs often wallow in mud pits, which also help to keep them cool and free of insects.

In the wild, the tapir's diet consists of fruit, berries, and leaves, particularly young, tender growth. Tapirs will spend many of their waking hours foraging along well-worn trails, snouts to the ground in search of food. Baird's tapirs have been observed to eat around 40 kg (85 lb) of vegetation in one day. [21]

Tapirs are largely nocturnal and crepuscular, although the smaller mountain tapir of the Andes is generally more active during the day than its congeners. They have monocular vision.

Copulation may occur in or out of water, and in captivity, mating pairs will often copulate multiple times during oestrus. [22] [23] Intromission lasts between 10 and 20 minutes. [24]

Habitat, predation, and vulnerability

Adult tapirs are large enough to have few natural predators, and the thick skin on the backs of their necks helps to protect them from threats such as jaguars, crocodiles, anacondas, and tigers. The creatures are also able to run fairly quickly, considering their size and cumbersome appearance, finding shelter in the thick undergrowth of the forest or in water. Hunting for meat and hides has substantially reduced their numbers and, more recently, habitat loss has resulted in the conservation watch-listing of all four species; the Brazilian tapir is classified as vulnerable, and the Baird's tapir, the mountain tapir, and the Malayan tapir are endangered.

Evolution and natural history

The first tapirids, such as Heptodon , appeared in the early Eocene of North America. [25] They appeared very similar to modern forms, but were about half the size, and lacked the proboscis. The first true tapirs appeared in the Oligocene. By the Miocene, such genera as Miotapirus were almost indistinguishable from the extant species. Asian and American tapirs were believed to have diverged around 20 to 30 million years ago; tapirs later migrated from North America to South America around 3 million years ago, as part of the Great American Interchange. [26] For much of their history, tapirs were spread across the Northern Hemisphere, where they became extinct as recently as 10,000 years ago. [27] T. merriami , T. veroensis , T. copei , and T. californicus became extinct during the Pleistocene in North America. The giant tapir survived until about 4,000 years ago in China.

Approximate divergence times based on a 2013 analysis of mtDNA sequences are 0.5 Ma for T. kabomani and the T. terrestrisT. pinchaque clade, 5 Ma for T. bairdii and the three South American tapirs and 9 Ma for the T. indicus branching. [28] T. pinchaque arises from within a paraphyletic complex of T. terrestris populations. [28]

Tapirus  

T. terrestris  (South American tapir, Ecuador cluster)

T. pinchaque  (mountain tapir)

T. terrestris (South American tapir, other clusters)

T. kabomani  (little black tapir)

T. bairdii  (Baird's tapir)

T. indicus  (Malayan tapir)

The tapir may have evolved from the paleothere Hyracotherium (once thought to be a primitive horse). [29]

Genetics

Baird's tapir Central American Tapir-Belize20.jpg
Baird's tapir
A mountain tapir, the woolliest and most threatened species of tapir Mountain Tapir.jpg
A mountain tapir, the woolliest and most threatened species of tapir

The species of tapir have the following chromosomal numbers:

Malayan tapir, T. indicus2n = 52
Mountain tapir, T. pinchaque2n = 76
Baird's tapir, T. bairdii2n = 80
South American tapir, T. terrestris2n = 80

The Malayan tapir, the species most isolated geographically from the rest of the genus, has a significantly smaller number of chromosomes and has been found to share fewer homologies with the three types of American tapirs. A number of conserved autosomes (13 between karyotypes of Baird's tapir and the South American tapir, and 15 between Baird's and the mountain tapir) have also been found in the American species that are not found in the Asian animal. However, geographic proximity is not an absolute predictor of genetic similarity; for instance, G-banded preparations have revealed Malayan, Baird's and South American tapirs have identical X chromosomes, while mountain tapirs are separated by a heterochromatic addition/deletion. [30]

Lack of genetic diversity in tapir populations has become a major source of concern for conservationists. Habitat loss has isolated already small populations of wild tapirs, putting each group in greater danger of dying out completely. Even in zoos, genetic diversity is limited; all captive mountain tapirs, for example, are descended from only two founder individuals. [31]

Hybrids of Baird's and the South American tapirs were bred at the San Francisco Zoo around 1969 and later produced a backcross second generation. [32]

Conservation

A number of conservation projects have been started around the world. The Tapir Specialist Group, a unit of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, strives to conserve biological diversity by stimulating, developing, and executing practical programs to study, save, restore, and manage the four species of tapir and their remaining habitats in Central and South America and Southeast Asia. [33]

The Baird's Tapir Project of Costa Rica is the longest ongoing tapir project in the world, having started in 1994. It involves placing radio collars on tapirs in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park to study their social systems and habitat preferences. [34]

Attacks on humans

Tapirs are generally shy, but when scared they can defend themselves with their very powerful jaws. In 1998, a zookeeper in Oklahoma City was mauled and had an arm severed after opening the door to a female tapir's enclosure to push food inside (the tapir's two-month-old baby also occupied the cage at the time). [35] In 2006, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Echandi (who was then the Costa Rican Environmental Minister) became lost in the Corcovado National Park and was found by a search party with a "nasty bite" from a wild tapir. [36] In 2013, a two-year-old girl suffered stomach and arm injuries after being mauled by a South American tapir in Dublin Zoo during a supervised experience in the tapir enclosure. Dublin Zoo pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations and was ordered to pay €5,000 to charity. [37] However, such examples are rare; for the most part, tapirs are likely to avoid confrontation in favour of running from predators, hiding, or, if possible, submerging themselves in nearby water until a threat is gone. [38]

Frank Buck wrote about an attack by a tapir in 1926, which he described in his book, Bring 'Em Back Alive. [39]

Cultural references

South American tapir earthenware from Suriname, made before 1914 Tropenmuseum Royal Tropical Institute Objectnumber 7-106 Aardewerken tapir.jpg
South American tapir earthenware from Suriname, made before 1914

In Chinese, Korean and Japanese, the tapir is named after a beast from mythology that has a snout like that of an elephant. In Chinese and Japanese folklore, tapirs, like their chimerical counterpart, are thought to eat people's nightmares. In Chinese, the name of this beast, subsequently the name of the tapir, is in Mandarin () and mahk in Cantonese (). The Korean equivalent is maek (Hangul: , Hanja: 貘 [출처] 테이퍼 [貘, tapir]), while in Japanese it is called baku (or) (バク).

In the prehistoric sequences of the science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey, tapirs appear alongside primitive hominids in Africa. There is no evidence indicating that tapirs ever existed in Africa, so it is likely they were added simply for their "prehistoric" appearance. [40] In the novel of the film, the hominids instead coexist with warthogs, which they learn to hunt for food.[ citation needed ]

Mark the Tapir is a character in the animated series Sonic Boom . He is a parody of a stereotypical obsessed fan. [41]

Drowzee and Hypno from the Pokémon franchise are based on tapirs, [42] with their ability to eat dreams being derived from the baku.

Related Research Articles

Equidae family of mammals

Equidae is the taxonomic family of horses and related animals, including the extant horses, donkeys, and zebras, and many other species known only from fossils. All extant species are in the genus Equus. Equidae belongs to the order Perissodactyla, which includes the extant tapirs and rhinoceros, and several extinct families.

Odd-toed ungulate order of mammals

Odd-toed ungulates, mammals which constitute the taxonomic order Perissodactyla, are hoofed animals—ungulates—which bear most of their weight on one of the five toes: the third toe. The non-weight-bearing toes are either present, absent, vestigial, or positioned posteriorly. By contrast, the even-toed ungulates bear most of their weight equally on two of the five toes: their third and fourth toes. Another difference between the two is that odd-toed ungulates digest plant cellulose in their intestines rather than in one or more stomach chambers as the even-toed ungulates do.

Mountain tapir species of mammal

The mountain tapir or woolly tapir is the second-smallest of the five species of tapir, only the recently described Tapirus kabomani being smaller, and is the only one to live outside of tropical rainforests in the wild. It is most easily distinguished from other tapirs by its thick woolly coat and white lips.

<i>Macrauchenia</i> genus of mammals (fossil)

Macrauchenia was a long-necked and long-limbed, three-toed South American ungulate, typifying the order Litopterna. The oldest fossils date to around seven million years ago, and M. patachonica disappears from the fossil record during the late Pleistocene, around 20,000-10,000 years ago. M. patachonica was the best known member of the family Macraucheniidae, and is known only from fossil finds in South America, primarily from the Luján Formation in Argentina. The type specimen was discovered by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. In life, Macrauchenia resembled a humpless camel with a short trunk, though it is not closely related to either camels or proboscideans.

Papallacta human settlement

Papallacta is a small village in Napo Province, Ecuador located at an altitude of 3,300 m in the Andes just off the Eastern Cordilleras on the road from Quito which leads into the Amazon jungle. The scenic drive from Quito to Papallacta passes through several towns and small villages before ascending to a peak of over 4,000 m, from where mountains and glaciers are visible. Descending from the peak to Papallacta, the ecosystems transform from alpine to tropical jungle.

Tapiroidea superfamily of mammals

Tapiroidea is a superfamily of perissodactyls which includes the modern tapir. Members of the superfamily are small to large browsing mammals, roughly pig-like in shape, with short, prehensile snouts. Their closest relatives are the other odd-toed ungulates, including horses and rhinoceroses. Taxonomically, they are placed in suborder Ceratomorpha along with the rhino superfamily, Rhinocerotoidea. The first members of Tapiroidea appeared during the Early Eocene, 55 million years ago.

Tapirus merriami, commonly called Merriam's tapir, is an extinct species of tapir which inhabited North America during the Pleistocene.

Tapirus veroensis, commonly called the vero tapir, is an extinct Tapir species that lived in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. Tapirus veronensis is thought to have gone extinct around 11,000 years ago.

Tapirus lundeliusi is an extinct species of tapir that lived in Florida in the early Pleistocene. It was similar in size and shape to the still-living Mountain tapir.

Tapirus rondoniensis is an extinct species of large sized tapir that lived in northwestern parts of Brazil during the Pleistocene. Fossils of the species were found in the Río Madeira Formation of Rondônia, after which the species is named.

Patía Valley dry forests

The Patía Valley dry forests (NT0225) is an ecoregion in southwestern Colombia. It covers a dry valley surrounded by mountains. The original habitat has mostly been destroyed by human activity, although a few pockets remain.

Mo (Chinese zoology)

Mo (貘) was the standard Chinese name for the giant panda from the 3rd century BCE to the 19th century CE, but in 1824, the French sinologist Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat mistakenly identified the mo as the recently discovered black-and-white Malayan tapir, which never inhabited China in historical times. He based this misidentification on Chinese woodblock illustrations that depicted a mythological mo (貘) chimera with elephant trunk, rhinoceros eyes, cow tail, and tiger paws, which the famous Tang poet Bai/Bo Juyi first described in the 9th century. The consequences of Abel-Rémusat's error were extensive. His presumption that mo meant "Chinese tapir" was immediately adopted in Western zoology, and by the end of the 19th century it was accepted as modern scientific fact in China and Japan. In the 20th century, since mo had lost its original meaning, the giant panda was given a new Chinese name da xiongmao.

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