Researchers Discover New Mammal Species

(Image source: BBC / Mark Gurney) BY NATHAN GIANNINI Researchers at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural
History have made a new discovery — the first new species of carnivore to be identified
in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. This is the olinguito, the smallest member
of the raccoon family found only in the high-elevation rainforests of Colombia and Ecuador. (Via LiveScience) While studying other members of that family,
one of the researchers noticed something was slightly different about one of the specimens. “They were a rich red color. And I opened
the boxes, looked at the skulls, and I didn’t recognize that anatomy. The teeth, the ear
bones, everything was off, it was different.” (Via BBC) That researcher, Dr. Kristofer Helgen, compared
DNA samples with five other known species to confirm that specimen was a different species
Researchers even believe a female olinguito
lived in several zoos across the United States in the ’60s and ’70s. But it was misidentified
as an olingo, which is a close relative. (Via Flickr / Jeremy Gatten) Zookeepers struggled to get her to breed or
even mingle with the other animals. She was sent to several different zoos but died before
being properly identified. (Via Smithsonian Magazine) Researchers say the olinguito is nocturnal
and, though classified as a carnivore, it mostly eats fruit. Olinguito means small olingo. But the animal
also has a scientific name, which means fog or mist in Spanish — a nod to the cloud
forests where it lives. It also means lost or obscured, a fitting name as one researcher
notes: “That’s exactly what the olinguito has been. … Lost in the fog.” (Via The

local_offerevent_note March 1, 2020

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