Skip to main content

Tapirs as Living Fossils

  • Chapter

Part of the Casebooks in Earth Sciences book series (CASEBOOKS)


Tapirs belong to the family Tapiridae of the order Perissodactyla (odd-toed ungulates). This order also includes the families Equidae (horses) and Rhinocerotidae (rhinos) among its extant members. Living tapirs are found primarily in forested areas in Central and South America and in southeast Asia. They comprise a single genus, Tapirus, with four species, three of which are American and one Asian. They are medium-sized perissodactyls, with a body weight of around 300 kg, and are apparently “primitive” among ungulates in various aspects of their morphology and behavior. Superficially, they resemble suoid artiodactyls in the degree of modification of their skeleton from the basic therian mammalian condition, with the general ungulate trend for adaptation to increasing body size and cursorial specialization.


  • Middle Eocene
  • Large Body Size
  • Late Eocene
  • World Species
  • Postcranial Skeleton

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Learn about institutional subscriptions


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  • Cifelli, R. L. 1981. Patterns of evolution among the Artiodactyla and Perissodactyla (Mammalia). Evolution 35(3):433–440.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Deinum, D. 1973. Preliminary investigations on the digestibility of some tropical grasses grown under different temperature regimes. Surinamse Landbouw 2:121–126.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deinum, D., Dirven, J. G. P. 1972. Climate, nitrogen and grass. 5. Influence of age, light intensity and temperature on the production and chemical composition of Congo grass (Brachiana ruziziensis, Germain et Everard). Neth. J. Agric. Sci. 20:125–132.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grzimek, B. 1972. Animal life encyclopedia, Vol. 13 (Mammals IV). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

    Google Scholar 

  • Janis, C. 1976. The evolutionary strategy of the Equidae, and the origins of rumen and cecal digestion. Evolution 30: 757–774.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Janis, C. 1979. Aspects of the evolution of herbivory in ungulate mammals. Ph.D. Diss., Harvard U.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leopold, E. B. 1968. Late Cenozoic palynology, pp. 377–438. In: Tschudy, R. H., Scott, R. A. (eds.), Aspects of palynology. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radinsky, L. B. 1963. Origin and early evolution of North American Tapiroidea. Bull. Peabody Mus. Nat. Hist. 17:1–106.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radinsky, L. B. 1965a. Early Tertiary Tapiroidea of Asia. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 129(2): 185–263.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radinsky, L. B. 1965b. Evolution of the tapiroid skeleton from Heptodon to Tapirus. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 134(3):69–106.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radinsky, L. B. 1969. The early evolution of the Perissodactyla. Evolution 23(2):308–328.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Schaub, S. 1928. Der Tapirschädel von Haslen. Ein Beitrag zur Revision der oligocänen Tapiriden Europas. Abh. Schweiz. Palaeont. Gesell. 47:1–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Soest, P. 1981. The nutritional ecology of the ruminant. Corvallis, Or: O. & B. Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe, J. A. 1978. A paleobotanical interpretation of Tertiary climates in the Northern Hemisphere. Amer. Sci. 66:694–703.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zannier-Tanner, E. 1965. Vergleichende Verhaltensuntersuchungen über das Hinlegen und Aufstehen bei Huftieren. Z. Tierpsychol. 22:636–723.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 1984 Springer-Verlag New York Inc.

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Janis, C. (1984). Tapirs as Living Fossils. In: Eldredge, N., Stanley, S.M. (eds) Living Fossils. Casebooks in Earth Sciences. Springer, New York, NY.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, New York, NY

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-4613-8273-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4613-8271-3

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive