The Olinguito: A New Species of Mammal is Unveiled.

The discovery of a new mammal is a rare and exciting event in Biology.

The discovery of a new mammal is a rare and exciting event in Biology.

This racoon-like mammal–the first carnivore to be discovered in the last 35 years–was discovered not in the wild, but thanks to a collection of  South American racoon specimens that is available at the Smithsonian.

"D.C., Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, presented anatomical and DNA evidence that establish the olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe) as a living species distinct from other known olingos."

“D.C., Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, presented anatomical and DNA evidence that establish the olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe) as a living species distinct from other known olingos.”

“Though Helgen has uncovered dozens of unknown mammal species during previous expeditions, in this case, he did not set out to find a new species. Rather, he sought to fully describe the known olingos. But when he began his study in 2003, examining preserved museum specimens, he realized how little scientists knew about olingo diversity. “At the Chicago Field Museum, I pulled out a drawer, and there were these stunning, reddish-brown long-furred skins,” he said. “They stopped me in my tracks—they weren’t like any olingo that had been seen or described anywhere.” The known species of olingo have short, gray fur. Analyzing the teeth and general anatomy of the associated skulls further hinted that the samples might represent a new species. Helgen continued his project with a new goal: Meticulously cataloguing and examining the world’s olingo specimens to determine whether samples from a different species might be hidden among them.”–Via The Smithsonian.com.

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46 thoughts on “The Olinguito: A New Species of Mammal is Unveiled.

    • I agree. It was a definite tragedy the fact that an Olinguito died in captivity without anyone finding out its true identity. This event has direct correlation with concept 1.4 of our textbook: that science should be a social endeavor. At least the Smithsonian compensated for this mistake by preserving dead specimens of this tiny sky raccoon. Great comment.

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  1. I found this discovery facinating! But this at the same time opened an inmense curiosity, this is about the endless posibilities there are of finding many species in the sea. The sea is way bigger than land (+ it is oviously deep which meen more space), in all these space there can be undiscovered creatures like the Megalodon (said to be extinct), or even mermaids! In fact, the Giant Squid was found not so long ago.

    This link talks about what I’m saying about unexplored ocean.
    http://mobile.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/15/two-thirds-of-ocean-life-remains-undiscovered-

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    • “Space: The Final Frontier”. Anyone who has lived part of his or her life during the second half of the XX century, knows–or at least recognizes–this phrase, thanks to Star Trek. The thing is that we as humans have been calling the ocean “the final frontier” way longer than space. The ocean has always evoked that sense of “what is out there”. And that question has not lost any of its value, especially in light of what your link suggests: that more than 66% of life comes from the ocean. Good contribution, Paco.

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    • I agree with Paco, this discoveries now a days make us wonder what else could be out there that we haven’t been able to find. It is unusual to find a new species in land because we sometimes mistakenly believe that what we know is all there is out there but there are many things we still don’t know, many things to be discovered even more in the sea which as Paco said is way much bigger and has very deep parts that is not reachable to mankind to know if hey are any species not discovered which in my opinion there must be many we can’t even imagine. As to the mermaids, its a question many people have and it depends on opinion if you believe they exist or not but I believe they do after watching documentaries on youtube, which I encourage you to watch. It is kinda an obsession I have with all that mermaid stuff but its very interesting to me and it could be for many other people to.

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      • I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Paola, but mermaids do not exist. The arguments in favor of the existence of mermaids belong to what is known as ‘pseudoscience’ (pseudo = false). The following quote by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration) was taken from this link:

        “The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology — in addition to mermaids, there were wise centaurs, wild satyrs, and frightful minotaurs, to name but a few.”

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  2. I am pretty sure that the Olinguito was not identified as a new species because it wasn’t compared directly with other Olingo specimens. It could also be that there weren’t enough comparisons in genetic testing, ancestry, and different traits and adaptations. I believe that every new specimen should be thoroughly compared to previously acquired specimens through various methods. Curation should also be used to better preserve specimens, as I read in this article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/18/observer-editorial-olinguito

    Have in mind that curation, a preserving process, helped in various ways to discover this little creature that has previously been living among us.

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  3. I found it very interesting that there are still unknown species in the world. I think that there was not enough information nor genetic experiments to compare directly with the Olingo. As we can see, the Olinguito is a rare specimen in which scientists do not know exactly where it comes from due to the fact that it was recently discovered. Researchers argue that the Olinguito should be considered the smallest living member of the raccoon family, which includes other animals that make us go “awww”. This animal had been seen before by humans, but it had been “a case of mistaken identity.” It was in museums, it’s been in zoos, and its DNA had even been sequenced, but no one had connected the pieces and looked close enough to realize, basically, the significance of this remarkable animal. Previously, scientists had assumed that Olinguitos were members of their sister species, the Olingos (the bigger version of the Olinguito).

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  4. Everyday new animals are being discover, it dose not mater if it is in the sea or in Earth. Many of us think that only new animals can be discovered because they have not been seen before, but the Olinguito is just another example of how mistaken identification can cover up a different set of specie. This also demonstrates how closely animals, like humans, share the same characteristics as their relatives, so much that they can be confused for a long time. Scientist should continue investigating about other animals that have already been classified and make sure the same error is not taking place. So we could ask ourselves, why is this confusion happening constantly? Maybe the Olinguito was not differentiated at the time they were classified under the Olingo family because the scientist did not use the specific method or technology to separate his different genes. With today’s new technology there should exist a less possibility for this mistake to continue occurring.

    In this article it gives us more information about the discovery of the Olinguito:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/new-mammal-discovered-in-andean-cloud-forest-1.1378835

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  5. This is such an interesting discovery, and a somewhat serendipitous one as well, since Helgen wasn’t planning on finding a new specimen, but examining a discovered one even further. It certainly makes us wonder how many organisms have been wrongly classified as an already know specimen, as well as how many species have yet to have been discovered.

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  6. It is amazing how in 35 years a carnivorous mammal hadn’t been discovered. I found it very interesting that there are still unknown species in the world. Prior to the Olinguito, the last carnivorous mammal species discovered in America was the Colombian weasel, Mustela felipei, in 1978. if it weren’t for Kristopher Helgen we wouldn’t know the Olinguito was a new specie.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/new-species-found-teddy-bear-olinguito-lesula-several-other-recent-mammal-discoveries-1387417

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  7. Evolution is still taking place on Earth and it is extraordinary to think of the many possible species that can be discovered in the future as well as species that may become extinct. It is even more amazing to think of the many species that can be present in Earth right now but have not yet been discovered, especially in the wide open sea which is full of mysteries yet to be found.

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  8. It is amazing how now a days there are species that are yet unknow to us the human beings. Some species have been discovered recently. Imagine how many species are yet to be discovered and be published for us to know about them. We humans wouldn’t expect to find a new specie because we don’t dedicate our time or our thinking to that important theme of life. A great example is this blog in particular because Helgen was studying more about the Olingos and unexpectedly discovered a whole new specie that is not far from the Olingos, the Olinguitos. In 2013 already 9 species are know to have been discovered as you can see on the link that is posted here.

    http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/9-newly-discovered-species/phobaeticus-chani

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    • The biologist J.B.S. Haldane is credited with the following quote; thus suggesting what you say here, Ivana, “Imagine how many species are yet to be discovered and be published for us to know about them”:

      “The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other, for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known, and perhaps more, as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals. Beetles are actually more numerous than the species of any other insect order. That kind of thing is characteristic of nature.”

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      • That’s amazing! I didn’t know how many types of species of beetles exsisted and I would never even guess that it was around that number. It is astonishing how little knowledge we have about all this little details.

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  9. I would have thought that in the 20’s century we (humans) would have already discovered all types of animals, not plants nor insects because they are more diverse and the differences between each are less than in animal. The unbelievable part about this discovery is that it is a carnivore, that can be seen with a naked eye and it does not resemble much to other species. The world is so diverse that even with our advanced technologies we can not discover everything. After this research I belief that there are hundreds or thousands of new species in the world like the olinguito.

    This link has a good interview with the scientist that discovered the Olinguitos.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/science/cutest-new-animal-discovered-its-olinguito-6C10925572

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  10. After reading this post a question arose, how many species have their been recently discovered? I made a search and found that 18 strange new animal have been discovered. The animals that we’re discovered we’re different kinds of frogs and spiders, a lizard, a small deer (the smallest in the world), wallaby and a sea pig. As paco said the possibilities of finding new species are endless in the ocean. We know more about the moons surface than about the oceans floor

    Here’s the link for the new 18 animals
    http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/strange-new-animals-0917#slide-1

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    • The Ecuador Glass Frog is impressive. Here’s a quote from an article–via The Guardian–that illustrates the severe threat that these central american ecosystems face:

      About 95% of the trees around Cerro Pata de Pájaro – the area of rain and cloud forest (the home of the olinguito) in the west of the country where the species were discovered – have been felled for farming, said Paul ­Hamilton who led the ­expedition for ­Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International.

      Here’s a great shot of the glass frog. Its cardiovascular system can be easily identified:

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  11. It is amazing how still in the 20th century scientist are discovering new species. Imagine how many unknown species exist that we are unaware off. I find this topic really interesting because I am able to see the huge diversity of animals that exist and the possibility of increasing this number. With the Olinguito it is even more fascinating due to the fact that it is carnivorous animal. New species of this type of animals (carnivorous) are less commonly discovered than species of beetles or insects. I believe scientist should work hard on discovering new species because it will eventually help the development of the discovered specie. Being ignorant of what surrounds us is bad therefore we should learn and study new species discovered like the Olinguito.

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  12. http://xenophilia.com/glass-frog-found-in-ecuador/ i recommend this website that shows a better side of the glass frog or ‘Nymphagus Chancas’ it really caught my attention because i had never seen a frog like that before. This shows that there is a lot more species that we don’t know of that are yet to be discovered. But apart from the sea there are also other areas that people don’t have enough knowledge about like in the tropics, in the wilderness, desert, underground, or in the arctic range, places that are so near yet we haven’t fully gotten to know or examine the areas in search for new species. I just think it’s amazing every time they get to discover a new species that has probably been there all along.

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  13. This new discovery makes another mammal in our world. I wonder how many other mammals or different species are out there without being yet discovered. I have never seen this mammal before. There should be millions of animals yet undiscovered in our world, so this scientists should keep looking for more organisms that live with us and we don’t know yet.

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  14. The olinguito’s discovery can be attributed to the mistakes of scientists. This shows us that science and investigation aren’t perfect and that people make common mistakes all the time. Yet, how could they have confused an olinguito for an olingo when they have so many different physical traits? Could this have been a common mistake? Or was it a lack of observation and a matter of carelessness and negligence? It might be whichever, but it is thanks to these mistakes new discoveries can be made every day. For example, penicillin. Alexander Fleming didn’t clean up his workstation before leaving one day in 1928. When he came back, Fleming noticed that there was a strange fungus on some of his cultures. Even stranger was that bacteria didn’t seem to thrive near those cultures. Penicillin became the first and is still one of the most widely used antibiotics.
    Here is a link to other interesting scientific mistakes and accidents that led to life changing inventions and discoveries:
    http://science.discovery.com/famous-scientists-discoveries/10-accidental-inventions.htm

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    • “The olinguito’s discovery can be attributed to the mistakes of scientists.”<—–I agree. This happens a lot, not just in biology, but in all types of research. "Mistakes" can yield a lot of results.

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  15. It is mind blowing that there are still a lot of species of animals that haven’t been discovered in this planet. Even though this animal seems harmless, it probably is like its cousin raccoon, when it feels threatened it becomes aggressive. I hope that we are not alone in the universe, and if we are not I sure hope that the aliens don’t attack us for no reason.

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  16. “The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and leader of the team reporting the new discovery. “If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world’s species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth.” source: http://smithsonianscience.org/2013/08/olinguito/

    It is incredible how there is so much yet to be discovered about our planet. I find it amazing how scientists take the time to look at certain little details that lead to new findings and discoveries. Like for example how a scientist observed the olinguito’s teeth and skull, which were smaller and differently shaped than those of olingos. Things that are so easy too miss yet, they notice them trough careful observation, even though it took them some time, eventually they came through with a new species. I wonder what more is out there waiting to be discovered.

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  17. I could never comprehend how so many species could go undiscovered with todays technology, but the fact that there was an unidentified species under human care without being discovered is dumbfounding. I saw on this website : http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/9-newly-discovered-species/look-what-we-found . That there have been less than 2 million species discovered and yet scientists say that earth could hold up to 100 million species. The website also shows some recent discoveries.

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    • With internet and information technology, the efforts of millions of eyes can be geared towards the discovery of new species. Tools like Google Earth, in combination with flicker, have been very helpful to scientists. High school students have actually found new species with these tools—and social media, of course.

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  18. Recently, a new mammal was discovered. Its name is Olinguito. It is a carnivore that was found through Colombia and Ecuador. It is a red-brown creature that is a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear and weighs 2 pounds. It is very rare to have discovered a mammal such as this one. You would think all mammals have already been discovered, but as you can see you never know what could be discovered. All this time, it was thought to be an Olingo but with Kristofer Helgen’s observation, it was then discovered that it was another species.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/15/world/americas/new-mammal-smithsonian/index.html

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  19. Earlier this semester in class, when you talked about animal classification, the topic arose an interest in me of how animals throughout centuries have been classified and the different species etc. But when you talked about this new species known as the Olinguito, I was really intrigued to know that it was just recently discovered. As we researched the different classifications of the Olinguito, I saw that it was a species found in Central and South America. Then, I saw that the species was mistaken for the Olingo having resemblance. But then I said to myself, living today in the 21st century with all of this technology around us, how could it have been mistaken? With these new microscopes and other gadgets how come they didn’t figure it out sooner? Still it was an amazing discovery since carnivores are hard to find. In conclusion, in the scientific community it is very exciting to find a new species and it is with great joy that the scientific community welcomes a new species and searches for new ones.

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    • Cladistics and Systematics are very useful tools in modern biology, but the number of specimens gathering dust—and utterly forgotten—in museums all around the world is staggering. Who knows how many more species are waiting to be discovered. Consider the fact that we’ve been collecting specimens for hundreds of years.

      So, as I’ve said before, I believe that a biologist in a natural museum would be a pretty good carter choice in life sciences.

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  20. I wanted to comment on this blog post because I find that the discovery of a new species is very rare especially if it’s a mammal and a carnivore. It’s surprising this species was discovered due to a mistaken identity because even though it is very similar to the Olingo,Olinguitos have their own unique traits that distinguishes them from the others.
    Ever since I was young I’ve always a lot of interest of the oceans vastness and the different species it contains that we haven’t discovered.
    I wonder how many mistaken identities are yet to be discovered!

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