Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Steven C. Wallace

Committee Members

Blaine W. Schubert, James I. Mead


The Mio-Pliocene age Gray Fossil Site of northeastern Tennessee has the largest collection of tapir postcranial skeletons in the world. Though representing a single species, a few localized structures show high variability. This paper deals with variation of the first metatarsal, which in tapirs was reduced as an early adaptation for running and then retrofitted to serve as a special origin for flexors and adductors of the proximal phalanges. The first metatarsal connects the medial ankle with a posterior process of the third metatarsal in tapiroids. In Tapirus indicus, T. webbi, and 6 out of 31 T. polkensis feet at Gray, it extends more laterally to articulate with the fourth metatarsal. This condition is too variable for species distinction but is correlated with a decrease in the metatarsophalangeal joint facet, suggesting a mobility reduction likely related to the increased range and feeding strategy seen in extant T. indicus.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Paleontology Commons