|Range||North America (California)|
Tapirs have a long history on the North American continent. Fossils of ancient tapirs in North America can be dated back to 50 million-year-old Eocene rocks on Ellesmere Island, Canada, which was then a temperate climate. By 13 million years ago, tapirs very much like extant tapirs existed in Southern California.
During the Pleistocene era, a number of other species of tapirs are known to have inhabited the North American continent. Along with Tapirus californicus, Tapirus merriami was found in California and Arizona, Tapirus veroensis was found in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, and Tapirus copei was found from Pennsylvania to Florida.
T. californicus, like most extant tapirs, was believed to have been a largely solitary animal, and inhabited primarily the coastal regions of Southern California (although one specimen has been found in Oregon), preferring forested environments and possibly grasslands near rivers and lakes. Its maximum weight was about 225 kg (496 lb) and the estimated body length was 140 cm (4.6 ft), although no known complete fossil skeletal remains have been collected. Study of the skull shows T. californicus had shortened nasal bones to allow for attachment of strong muscles and ligaments to form a fleshy, prehensile snout like all extant tapirs. It was herbivorous, and its diet is believed to have consisted of shrubs, leaves, aquatic plants, fruits, and seeds. T. californicus was most likely prey to such predators as Smilodon, dire wolves, American lions and paleo-Indians.