Meet the Olinguitos!
While the olinguito looks like a wild, tree-climbing teddy bear with a cat's tail, it's actually the world's newest mammalian carnivore. The remarkable discovery—the first mammal carnivore uncovered in the Western Hemisphere since the 1970s—was found in the lush cloud forests of the Andes, a biodiverse region home to a wide-range of species found no-where else.
Dubbed the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), the new mammal is a member of a little-known, elusive group of mammals—olingos—that are related to raccoons, coatis, and kinkajous. However, according to its description in the journal Zookeys, the olinguito is the most distinct member of its group, separated from other olingos by 3-4 million years (or longer than Homo sapiens have walked the Earth).
"You can tell them apart by looking at almost any feature!" Kristopher Helgen, the lead scientist on the team and Director of Mammals at the Smithsonian Institute told mongabay.com. "Olinguitos are smaller than olingos, with longer, softer fur (shorter and harsher in olingos), they are more more colorful (usually reddish-brown or orange-brown in olinguitos, more brown, tan, or gray in olingos), and they have a shorter, bushier tail, smaller ears, and a more rounded face. Olinguitos have larger molars, smaller bones of the ear, and somewhat differently shaped skulls compared to olingos."
Olinguitos are also the only one in the family that inhabit high-altitude cloud forests at 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level.
Photo credit NPR.
Read more at ENN Affiliate, Mongabay.