Categorized | Environment, Media

Adorable New Species of Mammal Discovered

 

Meet the Olinguito:  Newest Animal Discovered in 35 Years

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

(Yahoo News/YouTube)–  It’s so cute it’s hard to resist, let
alone overlook.  But somehow science did overlook it — until now.

Researchers announced today a rare discovery of a new species of mammal called the olinguito.  The reddish-brown animal is about 2 feet long with a long tail and weighs about 2 pounds.  Imagine a mini-raccoon with a teddy bear face and you get the picture.

It belongs to a grouping of large creatures that include dogs, cats and bears.

The critter leaps through the trees of mountainous forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night, according to a Smithsonian researcher who has spent the past decade tracking them.  The discovery is described in a study in the journal ZooKey.

But the adorable olinguito shouldn’t have been too hard to find.  One of them once lived in the Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington for a year in a case of mistaken identity.

“It’s been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time” despite its extraordinary beauty, said Kristofer Helgen, the Smithsonian’s curator of mammals.

The little zoo critter, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Before she died in 1976, Ringerl was shipped from zoo to zoo in Louisville, Ky., Tucson, Ariz., Salt Lake City, Washington and New York City to try to get it to breed with other olingos.

Except she wouldn’t and never did.  “It turns out she wasn’t fussy,” Helgen said.  ”She just wasn’t the right species.”

Helgen first figured olinguitos were different from olingos when he was looking at pelts and skeletons in a museum.  He later led a team to South America in 2006.

“When we went to the field we found it the very first night,” said study co-author Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.  ”It was almost like it was waiting for us.”

It’s hard to figure how olingos and onlinguitos were confused for each other.  “How is it different? In almost every way that you can look at it,” Helgen said.

Olinguitos are smaller, have shorter tails, a rounder face, tinier ears and darker bushier fur, he said.  “It looks kind of like a fuzzball … kind of like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat,” Helgen said.

It eats fruit and has one baby at a time.  Helgen figures there are thousands of olinguitos in the mountainous forest, traveling through the trees at night which makes them hard to see.

While new species are found regularly, usually they are tiny things like insects and not mammals, the warm-blooded advanced class of animals that have hair, live births and mammary glands in females.

Outside experts said this discovery not merely renaming something, but a genuine new species — with three new subspecies — and a significant find, the type that hasn’t happened for about 35 years.

“Most people believe there are no new species to discover, particularly of relatively large charismatic animals,” said Case Western Reserve University anatomy professor Darin Croft.  ”This study demonstrates that this is clearly not the case.”

The olinguito is the smallest member of the raccoon family of mammals.

The researchers only saw olinguitos in Ecuador and Colombia, but they said they could also be living in parts of Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Guyana, based on their cloud forest habitat.  The olingo is also native to Central and South America.

The North Carolina museum is already selling olinguito stuffed animals for about $15.  Proceeds will benefit habitat preservation for the creatures.

Perhaps there’s hope finding another elusive species evading science:  Bigfoot.

* * * * * * * *

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

One Response to “Adorable New Species of Mammal Discovered”

  1. Steve Lewis says:

    This is great! As a young teen I had a friend kinkajou at the Santa Barbara Museum’s little tiny zoo. You weren’t supposed to touch the animals and this one I was warned was particularly nasty with people. But he or she liked me, I usually get along with most animals, being one myself as exes will attest. Anyway, this kinkajou’s fur was the softest pelt I’ve ever felt, softer than mink, for sure, and he looked more like this new species, olinguito, than a racoon or that other Mexican snout-nosed one I’m too lazy to look up here. A new species under our noses. Bigfoot…isn’t that where one of your lower extremities ends up in your mouth?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Leave a Reply

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • Study: Armchair socialists more active than centrists
    Science Daily - Left wing 'armchair socialists' are more physically active than people whose beliefs straddle the center of the political spectrum, suggesting that the term 'armchair socialist' is a bit of a misnomer, reveals actual published research.  The researchers analysed responses to the 2005 Eurobarometer survey, carried out on be […]
  • Word: Standardized testing
    Bad Ass Teachers Association - We know that we are in the middle of a war, fighting for our schools and our students. One of the tolls in this war is the implementation of high stakes testing. These tests are like weapons, based upon the knowledge that these tests do not accurately measure educational achievement, but are more truly a measurement of the econ […]
  • The changing role of fire departments
    Vox   […]
  • Maine shows that publicly financed elections work
    Andrew Bossie, Moyers & Company- Almost 20 years ago, Maine voters approved a transformative initiative to put elections back where they belong, in the hands of everyday people... Under this Clean Election Act, legislative candidates who demonstrate broad support can choose to qualify for public funds for their campaign by collecting a large number of sm […]
  • The underrated water crisis
    New Yorker - The meagre allotment of water available to each Pakistani is a third of what it was in 1950. As the country's population rises, that amount is falling fast.Dozens of other countries face similar situations-not someday, or soon, but now. Rapid climate change, population growth, and a growing demand for meat (and, thus, for the water required […]
  • Biofuels' bad effect on the world
    Common Dreams - Government mandates to increase or maintain levels of biofuel blends in transportation fuel, with the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and the E.U. Renewable Energy Directive being the most prominent examples, encourage biofuel production and consumption worldwide. The United States and the European Union are projected to account for at least 60 […]
  • Race to the Bottom: Governors
    Scott WalkerPaul LePageChris ChristieRick SnyderBobby Jindal […]
  • Word
    To understand the choices open to people of another time, one must limit oneself to what they knerw; see the past in its own clothes, as it were, not in ours. -- Barbara Tuchman […]
  • The assassination of Boris Nemtsov
    New Yorker […]
  • Word: Scott Walker
    The Hill"If Scott Walker sees 100,000 teachers & firefighters as his enemies, maybe it's time we take a closer look at his friends.” - Elizabeth Warren In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Walker said, “If I can take on 100,000 protestors, I can do the same across the world.” […]
  • How to help save a million gallons of water
    Eco WatchIn honor of World Water Day on March 22, Surfrider Foundation launched Every Drop Counts campaign. The nonprofit says that if 25,000 people take the pledge to reduce the amount of water they use each day and skip their shower on World Water Day, nearly one million gallons of water will be saved...North American faucet brand Moen found that the avera […]
  • Loretta Lynch's secret prosecutions
    Johnny Dwyer, NBC News - The office headed by the woman poised to become the next attorney general has used an unusual method to keep many of its prosecutions hidden from the public, an NBC News investigation has found.Federal prosecutors in New York's Brooklyn-based Eastern District pursued cases against secret, unnamed "John Doe" defendants […]
  • Bank fines a fraction of what the government spent bailing them out
    Dirt Digger's Digest - Investment bank Morgan Stanley has disclosed that it will pay only $2.6 billion to settle U.S. Justice Department allegations that it deceived investors in the sale of toxic securities in the run-up to the financial meltdown.I say “only” because the amount is substantially lower than the figures paid by Bank of America ($16.7 bill […]
  • Top scientist predicts polar thaw by 2050s
    Daily Mail UK - The Arctic could be completely free of ice in just 40 years as a result of global warming, one of the world's leading climate change experts has warned.Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Oleg Anisimov said there is evidence that temperatures are rising four times faster in the frozen region than the rest of the planet.This means that the […]
  • Bringing urban farming to Pennsylvania
    Sustainable Cities- The Hilltop Alliance, a Pennsylvania nonprofit, is working on a project that could drastically advance urban agriculture in the state. The organization wants to turn a vacant 107-acre lot into Hilltop Village Farm, a multi-use development that would include 120 townhomes, a 20-acre urban farm incubator, a youth farm and CSA. If the plan i […]