Smithsonian researchers announced the discovery of a new species today—and it's not the usual slimy earth bug! This new species is a distractingly delightful mammal with stylish fur and an energetic attitude. It's called an olinguito and according to the Smithsonian researcher who discovered the creature, "it looks kind of like a fuzzball."
These researchers announced that this elongated bundle of softness and curiosity has been hanging around for a while, but they're only just noticed him. Rather, the Smithsonian "curator of mammals" (job title envy) Kristofer Helgen has been studying this species for the past decade but after a long attempt to keep this adorable, leaping treasure to himself has announced the olinguito exists.
According to AP, "it belongs to a grouping of large creatures that include dogs, cats and bears" (so lots of animals), and according to Helgen, it's "kind of like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat." They're about the size of a raccoon and they spend their evenings and nights leaping through the foliage of trees in the mountainous forests in Ecuador and Colombia, which makes them hard to see and possibly accounts for the time when nobody noticed them. Helgen estimates that there are 2,000 of these lovables, jumping in the dark among the foliage, just like memories.
Some other notable features of this bounding bundle of buoyancy:
- A tufty pillow shape physique
- The pinkest little nose protruding from…
- The teeniest snout
- The most russeted fur in fashionable ombré highlights of gold and mahogany
- The most delightfully petite ears ever
- An adoration of fruit, with some carnivore tendencies
- Mastery of the head-over-shoulder gaze
- Sweetly inquisitive, beady and needy little eyes
- Creepy little fingers with scary long claws
Apparently one of these dudes was even hanging about in captivity at the National Zoo in D.C., knowing that nobody knew what the fuck species she was as the zookeepers just accepted she was probably an animated stuffed animal that had wandered over. This olinguito was mistaken for a similar species, the olingo. She was transferred from zoo to zoo from 1967 to 1976 where she was encouraged to breed with olingos, but she was like, "Noooooo way, I don't know these animals." According to Helgen, "It turns out she wasn't fussy. She wasn't the right species."
Helgen said he discovered a difference between olingos and the new olinguitos while examining pelts and skeletons of the species in a museum. He then led a team to South America in 2006 to conduct more research. Olinguitos are smaller than the olingos, with tinier ears, more petite tails, rounder faces, and bushier fur. In other words, they are more adorable in most every way.
New species are discovered with some frequency, but an adorable, furry mammal is a rare new find. Experts in the field of animal study say this type of genuine new discovery (not a hair-splitting classification or renaming), hasn't happened in the Americas in 35 years. According to a Case Western University anatomy professor Darrin Croft: "Most people believe there are no new species to discover, particularly of relatively large charismatic animals. This study demonstrates that this is clearly not the case."
[images via AP]