One of the earliest families of tapirs, the helaletids were much like today's species, but were smaller and more lightly built.
name: Heptodon time: Early Eocene locality: North America
(Wyoming) size: 3 ft 4 in/1 m long Heptodon, an early helaletid, had already evolved the characteristic tapir-shaped body but had no trunk. The short trunk that is such a distinctive feature of modern tapirs was just beginning to evolve as a fleshy outgrowth of the upper lip in Helaletes, a relative of Heptodon that lived during the Middle and Late Eocene in North America and Asia. The trunk is a valuable adaptation, which tapirs used as a sensitive tool for pulling within reach and handling the twigs and leaves on which they feed.
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