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Meet The World’s Newest Animal

The newest species of mammal known to science, the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina). (Photo by Mark Gurney)

News Americas, QUITO, Ecuador, Fri. Aug. 16, 2013: A new animal has been discovered in Ecuador’s Andean Mountain, the first in the American continents in 35 years.

The first species in the order Carnivora to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere since the 1980′s is a furry, 2-pound creature named the olinguito, Kristofer Helgen, the leader of the research team at the Smithsonian Institution says.

The olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe) looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. It is actually the latest scientifically documented member of the family Procyonidae, which it shares with raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. The 2-pound olinguito, with its large eyes and woolly orange-brown fur, is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, as its scientific name, “neblina” (Spanish for “fog”), hints. In addition to being the latest described member of its family, another distinction the olinguito holds is that it is the newest species in the order Carnivora―an incredibly rare discovery in the 21st century.

“The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” said 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.”