New mammal species discovered - New York News

New mammal species discovered

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This undated handout photo provided by Mark Gurney shows an olinguito. (AP Photo/Mark Gurney) This undated handout photo provided by Mark Gurney shows an olinguito. (AP Photo/Mark Gurney)
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Researchers at the Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday the discovery of a new species of mammal.

The olinguito looks like a raccoon with a teddy bear face. It belongs to the same grouping as dogs, cats and bears. The critter, whose scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina,leaps through the trees of the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night, according to the Smithsonian.

"The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed," said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. "If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world's species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth."

Helgen and a team of scientists spent the better part of a decade tracking the mammal in the wild and examining hundreds of museum specimens. In fact, an olinguito within the Smithsonian was initially believed to be an olingo. When the mammal wouldn't breed with other olingos, researchers became suspicious of its species.

The team of researchers found a similar looking mammal -- the olinguito -- during an expedition through South America. Their first lucky break came when a zoologist with a camcorder captured a few seconds of grainy video of the animal. Then the team set off on a three-week expedition to observe the animals behaviors and habitat. They found that the mostly nocturnal olinguito eats mainly fruit, but may also eat insects and nectar, according to the Smithsonian.

"The cloud forests of the Andes are a world unto themselves, filled with many species found nowhere else, many of them threatened or endangered," Helgen said. "We hope that the olinguito can serve as an ambassador species for the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, to bring the world’s attention to these critical habitats."

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