Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Ségolène Royal goes for green

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

A look back at some of the Observers' best stories

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Dozens of youths trampled to death on Conakry beach

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

DEBATE

Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run? (part 2)

Read more

  • Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States

    Read more

  • Live: Israeli soldier feared captured, ceasefire 'over'

    Read more

  • Ugandan court strikes down anti-gay legislation

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • French hospital to open wine bar for terminally ill patients

    Read more

  • €2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more

  • Dozens killed and injured in Taiwan gas blast

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

Americas

Introducing the olinguito, latest mammal discovery

Video by Olivia SALAZAR WINSPEAR

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-08-16

Scientists on Thursday said they have identified the olinguito, a small animal that looks like a cross between a cat and a teddy bear, making it the first new carnivore discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

A lap-sized critter that looks like a mix between a cat and a teddy bear was unveiled Thursday as the first new carnivore identified in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

Scientists say the olinguito has actually been around for ages, in zoos, museums and in the forests of Ecuador and Colombia, but was mistaken for its larger cousin, the olingo.

A big clue that this tree-crawling animal was something unusual was that it never wanted to breed with the olingo, experts said.

The new species, named Bassaricyon neblina, is now understood to be the smallest member of the same family as raccoons, kinkajous and olingos.

With wide, round eyes and tiny claws that help it cling to branches, the olinguito can jump between trees. It feasts mainly on fruit but also eats insects and nectar.

Its discovery, which took a decade of research, is described in the August 15 edition of the open-access journal ZooKeys.

As part of the journey, scientists realized that museum specimens of the olinguito had been collected from a higher elevations -- 5,000 to 9,000 feet (1,500-2,700 meters) above sea level -- in the Andes Mountains than olingos were known to inhabit.

DNA analysis was also done to differentiate the olinguitos from their cousins.

The olinguito was smaller, with a differently shaped head and teeth. Its orange-brown coat was also longer and denser.

And when researchers took to the South American forests to see if the creatures were still around in the wild, they were not disappointed.

They found olinguitos in the cloud forests of the western Andes, and noted that the creatures are active at night.

The two-pound (one-kilogram) animals also appear to prefer staying in the trees and have one baby at a time instead of several.

"The cloud forests of the Andes are a world unto themselves, filled with many species found nowhere else, many of them threatened or endangered," said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

"We hope that the olinguito can serve as an ambassador species for the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia, to bring the world's attention to these critical habitats."

Helgen and his fellow researchers on the project estimate that 42 percent of historic olinguito habitat has already been converted to agriculture or urban areas.

There are four sub-species of the olinguito, and is not being classified as endangered. Experts believe there must be many thousands of them, possibly even in Venezuela and Peru.

At least one olinguito from Colombia was exhibited in several zoos in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, researchers said.

Back in the 1920s, a zoologist in New York was said to have found the olinguito so unusual that he thought it might be a new species, but he did not publish any research to document the discovery.

"Proving that a species exists and giving it a name is where everything starts," said Helgen.

"This is a beautiful animal, but we know so little about it. How many countries does it live in? What else can we learn about its behavior? What do we need to do to ensure its conservation?"

(AFP)

Date created : 2013-08-15

  • SCIENCE

    Scientists plan to revive Lonesome George species

    Read more

  • MALAYSIA - BORNEO

    Ten endangered pygmy elephants were 'poisoned'

    Read more

  • Wildlife

    Highly endangered Sumatran rhino in rare captivity birth

    Read more

COMMENT(S)