Scientists Discover A New Mammal - The Olinguito





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Published on Aug 15, 2013

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Here is an animal that lives in the cloud forests of the Andes, only comes out at night, and is the first new carnivore described in 35 years! It's also the cutest thing you've ever seen.

This mysterious creature has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. While rarely seen ever due to its nature, a few specimens existed in collections. A team of Smithsonian scientists recently uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey from museum cabinets in Chicago to cloud forests in South America to genetics labs in Washington, D.C. The result: the Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)―the first carnivore species to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. The team's discovery is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal ZooKeys.

The olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe) looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. It is actually the latest scientifically documented member of the family Procyonidae, which it shares with raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. The 2-pound olinguito, with its large eyes and woolly orange-brown fur, is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, as its scientific name, "neblina" (Spanish for "fog"), hints. In addition to being the latest described member of its family, another distinction the olinguito holds is that it is the newest species in the order Carnivora―an incredibly rare discovery in the 21st century.

Many thanks to:

Michelle Lotker for helping film at the museum
Roland Kays for setting up the interviews and taking time to show me around the NRC
The amazing authors and co-authors on this project:

Kristofer M. Helgen1, C. Miguel Pinto2,3,4,5, Roland Kays6,7,8, Lauren E. Helgen1, Mirian T. N. Tsuchiya1,9,10, Aleta Quinn1, Don E. Wilson1, and Jesús E. Maldonado1,10

1 Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, NHB 390, MRC 108, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA
2 Department of Biological Sciences and the Museum, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas 79409-3131, USA
3 Centro de Investigación en Enfermedades Infecciosas, Escuela de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Av. 12 de Octubre y Roca, Quito, Ecuador
4 The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10016 USA
5 Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, USA
6 North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC, 27601, USA
7 Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Program, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, 27695, USA
8 Center for Tropical Forest Science, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa Ancón, Republic of Panamá
9 Department of Environmental Science & Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 22030 USA
10 Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008, USA

Corresponding author: Kristofer M. Helgen (helgenk@si.edu)

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