Mental Floss

And now for something completely different

By BY
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Whew! That was a heavy way to start the morning. I need a palate cleanser -- something that's cute and fanciful and playful and the exact opposite of a serial killer. I need...

The world's silliest animal: the tapir. From Tapirback:

  • There are four species of tapirs worldwide, and all of them have babies with striped coats that make them look like "watermelons on legs." They lose the stripes within the first year of life.
  • Nobody knows whether their ancient ancestors began in Asia or North America. Tapir fossils for millions of years back can be found in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., but there are none in Africa, Australia, or [editor's note: unsurprisingly] Antarctica. Today, tapirs live only in South America and Southeast Asia.
  • They'll eat basically anything, but almost all of them love bananas.
  • The tapirs featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey are Tapirus terrestris, or lowland (Brazilian) tapirs, which would not survive in the desert environment Kubrick designed for them. These particular ones came from the Twycross Zoo in England.
  • Apparently the great French zoologist Georges Cuvier once announced to the world that all the large land mammals had already been discovered. The next year, the Malayan tapir became known to Western science.
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If you're near a zoo that has a tapir, particularly a baby one, go visit! If not, at least check out this blog that's entirely about tapirs -- because it wouldn't be the interweb if there weren't one of those.

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