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Extinct California Tapir (Tapirus californicus) Fact Sheet, 2009   Tags: california, extinct, fact sheet, fossil, mammal, san diego zoo, sdzg, tapir  

California Tapir (Tapirus californicus)
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Extinct California Tapir (Tapirus californicus) Fact Sheet, 2009

California Tapir, extinct 

Extinct California tapir, Tapirus californicus

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla - horses, rhinos, tapirs

Family: Tapiridae - tapirs

Genus: Tapirus                              

Species: Tapirus californicus (Merriam, 1913) - California tapir (extinct)

Body Weight
Estimated somewhat less than 225 kg (496 lb)

Body Length
Estimated 140 cm (4.6 ft); no known complete fossil skeletal remains


Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Coastal southern California

Forests, woodlands, perhaps grassland, especially near rivers and lakes

Species went extinct by 13,000 years ago

Social Behavior
Believed to have been solitary

Interspecies Interactions
Similar to modern tapirs, may have played a role in dispersing seeds and fertilizing fruiting trees.

Assumed to be like living tapirs, eating leaves, aquatic plants, fruits, and seeds

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Feature Facts

  • Tapir-like mammals were once diverse with a world-wide in distribution; today, only four living (extant) species live in tropical latitudes in Central and South America
  • Extant tapirs thought to be very similar to extinct tapir species
  • Short, muscular proboscis (nose)
  • California tapirs may have enjoyed wallowing in the mud, like modern tapirs

About This Fact Sheet

© 2009 San Diego Zoo Global

How to cite: Extinct California Tapir (Tapirus californicus) Fact Sheet, 2009. c2009. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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