Newly discovered mammal species is a cute cousin to the raccoon

Meet the olinguito, the first new carnivore mammal species discovered in North America in 35 years

A team of Smithsonian scientists has discovered a new mammal. Meet the olinguito:


This little guy is in the same family as the raccoon that might be digging through your garbage bin later tonight. The olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe) weighs about 1 kg and is native to cloud forests in Colombia and Ecuador.

Discovering a new mammal doesn’t happen every day anymore. The olinguito is the first mammalian carnivore to be discovered on the North American continent in 35 years. In fact, this discovery came after a decade of work by a team of scientists, who used DNA testing and studied specimens in other museums to ensure they had, indeed, discovered something new.

“The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said on the Smithsonian blog.

Now that this new species has been discovered, there is also an urgency to preserve it. Its cloud forest habitat is under development pressure and scientists say that 42 per cent of the olinguito’s traditional habitat has already been lost to urbanization or agricultural development.

The scientists published details of their findings in the online journal ZooKeys.

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