Fossil Animal of the Quarter
No, tapirs are not extinct- in fact they're doing well in certain parts of the world, such as Asia and South America. There were tapirs of different species however, which are now extinct, that roamed across North America during during the past.
The best preserved skull of a fossil tapir was found in Florida in 1916 in my hometown of Vero Beach during canal construction. This species was subsequently named Tapirus Veroensis and put my little hometown on the paleontological map.
Tapirs are water loving mammals which prefer jungle type habitats and tropical to sub-tropical temperatures. They swim very well and are herbivores. Today their main threats are habitat destruction and carnivores such as jaguars. Fossil tapirs seemed to differ little from more modern tapirs and apparently shared a similar lifestyle.
Fossil tapirs lived in North America between 5 million and 10,000 years ago and shared the landscape with mammoths, saber-tooth cats and other more familiar animals. Tapirs also do well in captivity, so the next time you see one swimming happily in a zoo, say hi to a part of the distant past.
Fossil Tapir Jaw w/2 Molar Teeth-
Arcadia, Fla. 2008