olinguito Smithsonian reveals new species: What is the olinguito?

Scientists have found the first new species of carnivore in over 35 years, the Smithsonian Institution announced on Thursday (August 15). 

Meet the olinguito: a rust-colored, furry mammal that lives in the treetops of the Andes Mountains. The adorable little animal weighs two pounds (the most petite member of the raccoon family) and eats fruits, insects, and plant nectar. It’s being described as a cross between a raccoon and teddy bear … because we all know that the teddy bear is a real and totally legit living animal, right? Right.

Finding a new species is rare — especially finding a new species of carnivore — so where has the olinguito been hiding this whole time? According to zoologist Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (who helped discover the olinguito), the mammal hadn’t been hiding at all. 

Scientists had actually just been mistaking the olinguito for the olingo, a larger member of the raccoon family. The olinguitos have long been observed in the wild, in museum collections, and even exhibited at zoos, but under the wrong name. No one realized it was a new species until further investigation and DNA testing proved that it was its own species.

This just proves the importance of doing one’s homework — and never assuming anything. Because you know what they say about what happens when you assume …

Posted by:Sydney Bucksbaum