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Olinguito- A Case Of Mistaken Identity

It’s a rare thing indeed to discover a new animal. Rarer still if it’s a mammal indigenous to the western hemisphere. For the first time in over 35 years we have a new carnivorous mammal to get excited about. And let me be the first to say, he’s really quite the charmer.

The Olinguito has been hiding in plain sight for over a century. Much like the Ilomantis ginsburgae mantis, it was wrongly classified at discovery. Also like that case, it took a scientist looking through old records to spot the mistake. Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History discovered old remains of an Olingo tucked away in a drawer. Upon closer inspection he noticed that the animal was significantly different, both in color and morphology, from other specimens of the same species he had encountered. What he had discovered was an entire species that had been folded into a similar one without anyone noticing. What followed was 10 years of research and expeditions into the cloud forests of Ecuador.

DNA evidence proved that while the newly named Olingutios were indeed related to the Olingos they were once confused for, they were absolutely different species. This revelation explains why some Olingos refused to mate in captivity. They weren’t being picky or anti-social, they just weren’t compatible.

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Olinguito is Spanish for little, adorable olingo. The name fits this baby quite well.

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Their scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina, which means mist or fog. It’s a reference to the cloud forest where they live, and a nod to the fact they’ve been “lost in a fog” all this time.

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They only weigh about 2 pounds and are quite nimble in the trees.

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Their diets consist mainly of fruits and insects. They love figs especially.

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Although they aren’t endangered or at direct risk, they face the same issues as all creatures living in the rainforest (mainly deforestation).

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Unfortunately, to see one in the wild you’ll need to fly down to South America.

For more information on this amazing new discovery, check out the video below!

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