Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A new species of Tapir from South America.

Tapirs are forest dwelling Perissodactyls (even-toed ungulates, the group of Mammals that also includes Horses and Rhinos) currently found in India, South and Central America. They are thought to have originated in North America, and subsequently dispersed across Eurasia; both areas having large numbers of fossil taxa but no living species. Tapirs reached South America during the Great American Faunal Interchange, which followed the closure of the Panama Seaway, and subsequently survived the end-Pleistocene extinction in South America, where they were the largest terrestrial Mammals to do so. All Tapir species are currently classed as either Vulnerable or Endangered under the Terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

In a paper published in the Journal of Mammalogy in December 2013, a team of scientists led by Mario Cozzuol of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais describe a new species of Tapir from South America. This is the first new species of living Perissodactyl described for over a century, and the first new living Tapir species since 1865.

The new species is named Tapirus kabomani, which derives from ‘Arabo kabomani’ a name for Tapir in the Paumarí language, which is indigenous to the area where the first specimens were collected. Tapirus kabomani is distinct from all other Tapir species both physically and genetically, and is notably smaller and shorter than any other living Tapir or fossil South American Tapir.

Camera-trap photos of 2 specimens of Tapirus kabomani in southern Amazonas State from Brazil. Lateral view of the head and anterior body of a male (right) and female (left) specimens. Cozzuol et al. (2013).

Tapirus kabomani was found in Amazonas, Rondônia, and Mato Grosso states in Brazil and in Amazonas Department in Columbia; it is also thought to live along the Guiana Shield, in southern French Guiana and Amapá State in Brazil. This gives it a range that overlaps that of the previously described Tapirus terrestris, the first time two living species of Tapir have been shown to have overlapping ranges.

The species is described from ten specimens, the oldest of which was collected by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Roosevelt was apparently informed by local hunters that his specimen was a different kind of Tapir, and returned it to the United States for analysis, only to have is rejected as a local variation of Tapirus terrestris

See also…


Rhinoceroses are iconic members of the modern Mammalian megafauna, distinguished by their large bulk, thick hides and horns. There are five modern species of Rhinoceros from Africa and Asia...



Tapirs are large tropical, forest dwelling, herbivorous mammals related to Horses and Rhinoceroses. They have an unusual distribution, being found in South and Central America, as well as...



Rhinoceroses are iconic members of the modern Mammalian megafauna, distinguished by their large bulk, thick hides and horns. There are five modern species of Rhinoceros from Africa and Asia, three of which are considered to be Critically Endangered under...


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