California Tapir, Tapirus californicus
March 2009

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*How Do We Know This? Like living animals, fossil remains of once-living animals are
classified and grouped according to their relationships to each other and to their ancestors.

(Ashley 2006) (Colbert 2006) (Colbert & Schoch 1998) (Eberle 2005) (Prothero & Schoch 2002) (Scott 2006)

Describer (Date): Merriam 1913 for extinct Tapirus californicus

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
        Class: Mammalia
             Order: Perissodactyla (Horses, rhinos, tapirs)
                   Family:Tapiridae (Tapirs)
                           Genus: Tapirus
                                  Species: Tapirus californicus (extinct California Tapir)                                                              

Taxonomic History and Nomenclature

*How Do We Know This? Scientists use knowledge of the earth's rocks, global plate
tectonic movements, and the chemical process of fossilization to make sense of fossil
distribution patterns and ancient habitats.

(Jefferson 1989) (Colbert & Schoch 1998)

Distribution Habitat Status

*How Do We Know This? Careful study of fossil bone or tooth anatomy yields
much exact information about placement and strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments,
nerves, and blood vessels. In rare cases, skin and hair impressions or actual skin or hair
is preserved. Body weight is more difficult to gauge because fat leaves no impression on the skeleton.

(Colbert & Schoch 1998)

Estimated Body Weight: Estimated somewhat less than 225 kg (496 lb)
Head/Body Length: Estimated 140 cm (4.6 ft); no known complete fossil skeletal remains

General Description



Sexual Dimorphism

  • Other Physical Characteristics

    *How Do We Know This? Since direct observation of a fossil animal's behavior isn't possible,
    paleontologists use comparison and contrast with living animals for guidance. Tracks can
    sometimes reveal further clues.

    (Randal 2004) (Janis 1984)

    Social Life
    Other Behavior
    Interspecies Interaction

    *How Do We Know This? Clues to fossil mammals' diets come from not only teeth,
    but also skull shape, amount of space indicated by bones for a stomach and guts, from fossil
    dung and gut contents, from lab analysis of oxygen isotopes in bone and teeth, and by looking
    at diets of similar modern animals.

    (Downer 2001) (Colbert and Schoch 1998)

    *How do We Know This? Abnormalities in fossils bones may show
    evidence of arthritis, cancer, nutritional stress, fractures and more.

    Important Web Resources (including where to view fossils in museums):

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