I'm a little Tapir, short and stout
Here is my tail, here is my snout
Don't dare tip me over, I do more than shout.
I'll jump back up, and chase you all about.
The four living species of tapirs, the lowland tapir, the mountain tapir, Baird's tapir, and the Asian tapir are remnants of an ancient lineage whose evolutionary origin traces back at least fifty million years. Although their stout body superficially makes them look like pigs, and their short fleshy proboscis (trunk) often causes casual zoo-goers to mistake them for anteaters, they are not closely related to either of these groups.
In fact, their closest evolutionary cousins among living mammals are rhinoceroses and horses.
"Say what! Neigh-way. I find that hard to believe"
Characteristics differentiating tapirs from other mammals, the most obvious are: the continuous transverse shearing blades (or lophs) on their cheek teeth; their three-toed hindfoot, and four-toed forefoot; and most noticably, their short prehensile proboscis
Tapirs usually live in forested areas, and their stocky build, with relatively short limbs and stout torso, is well suited for barreling through the underbrush. Although they are large mammals, (adult tapirs weighing from about 330 -800 lbs, (depending on species) they are characteristically shy and avoid human contact. Because of this, and because they are typically crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) or nocturnal, they are rarely seen in the wild.
Tapirs are generally solitary, although several individuals may share an overlapping home range. They have a long gestation period (about 13 months), and they give birth to one calf at a time. This low recruitment rate makes tapirs highly vulnerable to over-hunting. Unfortunately, habitat loss and over-hunting are major threats to the long-term survival of all four tapir species.
The Tapir's prehensile trunk trunk is comprised of modified muscles of the upper lip and nose, and is capable of complex movements.
Though they appear densely
built, tapirs are at home in the water and often submerge to cool off. They are excellent swimmers and can even dive to feed on aquatic plants. They also wallow in mud, perhaps to remove pesky ticks from their thick hides.
So bye for now, hope we made you smile,
and don't forget, April 27th is World Tapir Day!
Some text by Matthew Colbert and National Geographic.