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Almiqui? Move over, there's a new overlord in town -- The Olinguito

Paleontologists, entomologists and marine biologists seem to discover new dinosaurs, bugs and deep-sea creatures all the time. But a new mammal in the 21st century?

Other than cute horse-family hybrids, it's a much rarer occurrence.

Kristopher Helgen, the curator of mammals at the National Natural History Museum, recently identified a new mammal species in the cloud forests lining the Andes Mountains of South America. He has named it the olinguito and classified it in the procyonidae family, the same as raccoons.

The olinguito itself has been described by the Smithsonian Institution as "a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear."

During a news conference earlier today, Helgen said that the olinguitos suffered a long case of mistaken identity. "Anyone who has seen them for hundreds or even thousands of years thinks they might have seen an olingo or a kinkajou," he said.

Although olinguitos live in the same geographic region as its relatives, they live in different habitats. Olinguitos were found at higher elevations, 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level.

Hopi Hoekstra, the curator of mammals in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, said the differences in appearance and habitat are strong pieces of evidence for calling the olinguito a new species. "There are color and size differences, and the other key piece is that they are ecologically distinct," she told ABC News. "If [olingos and olinguitos] were interbreeding a lot, they wouldn't be as distinct in their appearance."

It turns out that olinguitos aren't just found in the wild. The diminutive mammal might be hiding in plain sight in museum collections and even zoos. When Helgen looked up a DNA sample from an olinguito, he was surprised to see that there was a match on GenBank, a public database filled with DNA sequences.

Helgen and his colleagues linked the GenBank entry back to an animal that traveled through several different city zoos in the 1970s, including Louisville, Tucson, Salt Lake City and Washington. It ultimately passed away in the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

Helgen got in touch with one of the zookeepers who looked after this animal. He said at today's news conference that the zookeeper always thought it was strange that the animal wouldn't breed with other olingos. "It would never breed," Helgen said. "They were entirely different species."

Hoekstra said that while she's not yet ready to call the olinguito a new species, most of the evidence is there. "The next step is to do a thorough genetic survey between olingos and olinguitos," she said. "But I'm convinced that they're onto something. Once they collect the genetic data, that seals the deal for me."

The discovery of a new species isn't complete without a Latin name, and Helgen decided on bassaricyon neblina. Bassaricyon is a logical step because it shares enough characteristics with the olingo that they would fall under the same genus. But neblina has a dual meaning for the curator.

"Neblina references mist and fog and evokes this fragile habitat that's [the olinguitos] only home," Helgen said. "But it can also mean obfuscation, like being lost in the mist. Our pleasure is to bring the olinguito out of the fog."

by Anonymousreply 1811/01/2013

I want one.

And the discoverer is hot, but you knew he would be

by Anonymousreply 108/16/2013

Bitch, please. No one ever described ME as a 'a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear'.

by Anonymousreply 208/16/2013

The discover is hot. For some reason I got the impression the olinguito would be much smaller.

by Anonymousreply 308/16/2013

I still rule around here.

by Anonymousreply 408/16/2013

Lord Snooky has turned up the dial on climate change because of your insolence, OP.

by Anonymousreply 508/16/2013

Aw, that olinguito has a cute little face.

by Anonymousreply 608/16/2013

It looks possessed.

by Anonymousreply 708/16/2013

It predicts its discoverer is a big ole' bossy bottom, R7.

by Anonymousreply 808/16/2013

"Olinguito" sounds like Spanish word for a giant cock

by Anonymousreply 908/16/2013

Tastes like chicken.

by Anonymousreply 1008/16/2013

BUMP for the Olinguito.

by Anonymousreply 1108/17/2013

The discoverer has Tard face, and you know he smells like the monkey cage at the zoo. Jesus, you people have no standards at all.

by Anonymousreply 1208/17/2013

Is this thing new on the Taco Bell menu?

by Anonymousreply 1308/17/2013

The olinguito is too cute for words.

by Anonymousreply 1408/22/2013

I just realized what it is about the discoverer. He has that enormous Tom Cruise grin, which can invoke the idea that maybe he is mentally deficient or crazy. I prefer to believe that it's the joy of discovery. He is hot.

by Anonymousreply 1508/22/2013

BUMP for the Olinguito

by Anonymousreply 1609/09/2013

I, for one, welcome our new olinguito overlords.

by Anonymousreply 1709/09/2013

More Ollinguito cuteness.

by Anonymousreply 1811/01/2013
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