Scientists discover new mammal: the olinguito - New York News

Scientists discover new mammal: the olinguito

Posted: Updated:
Source: YouTube Source: YouTube
WASHINGTON (AP) -

Imagine a raccoon with a teddy bear face that is so cute it's hard to resist, let alone overlook. But somehow science did — until now.

Researchers announced Thursday a rare discovery of a new species of mammal called the olinguito. It belongs to a grouping of large creatures that include dogs, cats and bears.

The raccoon-sized 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.

But the adorable olinguito shouldn't have been too hard to find. One of them lived in the Smithsonian-run National Zoo in the 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 zoo's little critter, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Ringerl was shipped from zoo to zoo from 1967 to 1976: Louisville, Ky., Tucson, Ariz., Salt Lake City, Washington and New York City to try to get it to breed with other olingos.

It wouldn't.

"It turns out she wasn't fussy," Helgen said. "She wasn't the right species."

The discovery is described in a study in the journal ZooKey.

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 in 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, weighs about 2 pounds and has one baby at a time. Helgen figures there are thousands of olinguitos in the mountainous forest, traveling through the trees at night so they are hard to see.

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

Outside experts said this is not merely renaming something, but a genuine new species 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."

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • WATCH LIVE: VP Joe Biden speaking in Detroit on Labor Day

    WATCH LIVE: VP Joe Biden speaking in Detroit on Labor Day

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:06 AM EDT2014-09-01 13:06:45 GMT
    Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in Detroit on Labor Day for the second time in three years.
    Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in Detroit on Labor Day for the second time in three years.
  • RECALL: Kraft American Singles Cheese Slices

    RECALL: Kraft American Singles Cheese Slices

    Monday, September 1 2014 8:05 AM EDT2014-09-01 12:05:15 GMT
    Kraft voluntarily recalled 7,691 cases of its American Singles cheese product Friday because an ingredient was stored improperly by a supplier.
    Kraft voluntarily recalled 7,691 cases of its American Singles cheese product Friday because an ingredient was stored improperly by a supplier.
  • Minimum wage hike launches this Labor Day

    Minimum wage hike launches this Labor Day

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:30 AM EDT2014-09-01 11:30:54 GMT
    Minimum wage workers across metro Detroit and the rest of the state are getting a small raise this Labor Day.
    Minimum wage workers across metro Detroit and the rest of the state are getting a small raise this Labor Day.
  • Download the FOX 2 Apps


  • FOX 2 News Five-Day Forecast
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Suspect, rookie officer both wounded in gunfire

    Suspect, rookie officer both wounded in gunfire

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:11 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:11:38 GMT
    Authorities say an early morning gunfire exchange on a Brooklyn street has left the suspect hospitalized and a police officer with a graze wound.
    Authorities say an early morning gunfire exchange on a Brooklyn street has left the suspect hospitalized and a police officer with a graze wound.
  • New MTA bus routes take effect

    New MTA bus routes take effect

    Sunday, August 31 2014 9:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 01:51:36 GMT
    MTAMTA
    The MTA has new bus routes throughout the 5 boroughs. 
    The MTA has new bus routes throughout the 5 boroughs. 
  • 3 hurt in lightning strike as storms batter NYC area

    3 hurt in lightning strike as storms batter NYC area

    Sunday, August 31 2014 9:47 PM EDT2014-09-01 01:47:41 GMT
    Heavy thunderstorms swept through the tri-state on Sunday causing flash floods and lightning strikes that injured 3 people. The three men were struck at Orchard Beach in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and were being treated at a local hospital. Meanwhile, various Labor Day weekend celebrations were interrupted, delayed and even canceled as the U.S. Open tennis tournament had to be postponed and the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island had to be prematurely shut down.
    Heavy thunderstorms swept through the tri-state on Sunday causing flash floods and lightning strikes that injured 3 people. The three men were struck at Orchard Beach in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and were being treated at a local hospital. Meanwhile, various Labor Day weekend celebrations were interrupted, delayed and even canceled as the U.S. Open tennis tournament had to be postponed and the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island had to be prematurely shut down.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices