As advertised, I did manage to make the trek to attend a very rare event: an actual lecture, by an expert, about tapir paleontology! It was very exciting to hear about advances in the understanding of tapirs here in SoCal. The talk was given by the San Bernadino County Museum Curator of Paleontolgy, Eric Scott.
A few highlights (any errors or omissions are of course mine):
* Once upon a time, about a million years ago, there were tapirs right here! Well, maybe not in this exact spot, since I live in a tall house and am currently sitting on the top floor, but they may well have wandered through what is now my back yard.
* Unlike their cousin the horse, tapirs have changed very little since the Pleistocene. So it is sometimes difficult, especially given
the paucity of tapir fossils, to make distinctions between extinct species. Even so, there is a fair amount of evidence based on size and tooth structure that there may have been as many as four different species just between Baja Mexico and southern California. It was an embarrassment of tapirs, I tell ya!
*All that dirt that used to fill up the Grand Canyon? Yeah, that's what the Anza Borrego dessert is made out of. The Colorado River used to flow that direction, before the San Andreas fault helped open up the Gulf of California
*Florida, where I'm from, was even richer than California in tapirs. If only I'd known that when I still lived there. They never teach the interesting facts in school!
All in all, the trip was well worth it. And thank you to the Tapir Preservation Fund for the photos! I love tapirs, and the fact that they look like relics from the past just makes them that much more charming.