A brand new creature, called the olinguito, has been discovered. This is the first discovery of its kind to have been made in over 35 years. The animal belongs to a large category of other animals, including dogs, cats and bears. The mammal springs from tree to tree, hunting for food, during the dead of night.
Quite astonishingly, we have been aware of the beasts for quite some time, but assumed their relation to be related to another species, called olingos; it seems that scientists had simply made a misjudgment in classification.
The main variations between olingos and olinguitos were observed when scientists were analyzing a collection of, what they assumed to be, olingos at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The following major differences had been noted, during their investigation, according to ABC News:
- Teeth size: olinguitos have smaller teeth than olingos
- Pelt description: olinguitos possessed longer, more dense, fur
- Cranium size: olinguito skull sizes were also much smaller, relative to the olingo species
- Tail length: shorter tail length, than compared to olingo equivalents
- Facial features: olinguito have a rounder face, and smaller ears
The species’ differences have been corroborated on a genetic scale, also. Such testing not only revealed that olingos and olinguitos are genetically dissimilar, but also revealed the existence of 4 subcategories of olinguito.
But why hadn’t the creature been discovered in its wild habitat? Apparently, olinguitos are nocturnal beasts that emerge during the darkness to forage for food. This issue is further complicated when considering the raccoon-like creature’s dwelling, occupying foliage-dense, jungle regions of Columbia and Ecuador.
One of the Smithsonian’s curators, named Kristofer Helgen described the unorthodox events that lead to the olinguito’s discovery, which commenced a decade ago. Apparently, the olinguito mammals had been collected along with a series of detailed notes, explaining the source from where the wide-eyed, furry mammals had originated. This initial discovery is what lead Helgen to find the first carnivorous creature in over three decades.
According to the National Geographic, Helgen explained how he found a drawer full of animal fur that he had not encountered before, along with the notes, which indicated the specimens had been acquired from the Andes, at elevations that were unnatural for regular olingos. This was his first suspicion that something had gone awry with the classification process.
This then spurred a lengthy pursuit for the elusive animals, which saw Helgen and his colleagues travel to a preserve in an Ecuadorian forest, to meet up with local zoological expert, Miguel Pinto. The group, on their very first night of expedition, identified a tree-bound olinguito. This was followed by other similar sightings, throughout their time in the area.
It’s thought that the olinguito is not an endangered species, and will continue to persist for quite some time to come, as great numbers occupy the protected ecosystems across the mountain range. The very fact that this is the first new discovery of a carnivorous creature in over three decades tells us something very exciting; further animal discoveries are yet to be made, and all of the mysteries of the Earth have yet to be uncovered.
By: James Fenner