Temporal range: Middle Pleistocene – Late Pleistocene
|A model of Tapirus merriami|
| †Tapirus merriami|
Tapirus merriami is an extinct species of tapir that inhabited North America during the Pleistocene era. T. merriami became extinct about 13,000 to 11,000 BC at the end of the last ice age.
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 before present, tapirs very much like extant tapirs existed in Southern California.
During the Pleistocene era, four species of tapirs are known to have inhabited the North American continent. Along with Tapirus merriami, Tapirus californicus also lived in California, Tapirus veroensis was found in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee, and Tapirus copei was found from Pennsylvania to Florida.
First discovered and described in 1921 by American vertebrate paleontologist Childs Frick, Tapirus merriami lived at the same time, and perhaps many of the same locations, as Tapirus californicus, but is believed to have preferred more inland habitats of southern California and Arizona. Like Tapirus californicus and all living tapirs, it is believed to have been a relatively solitary species. Of the four known Pleistocene-era tapirs found on the North American continent, Tapirus merriami was the largest. Tapirus merriami was a stout-bodied herbivore with short legs, a large, tapering head, and a short, muscular proboscis adept at stripping leaves from shrubs.