Smithsonian researcher discovers new mammal species - KMSP-TV

Smithsonian researcher discovers new mammal species

Posted: Updated:
WASHINGTON -

A zoologist who works for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. has identified the first new mammal to be described in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.

It is a small raccoon-like creature living in higher-elevation rain forests in South America.

Smithsonian Zoologist Kristofer Helgen was studying members of the raccoon family that live in Andean nations in South America. Helgen and zoologist Lauren Helgen (now his wife), were looking at specimens in the Field Museum in Chicago.

"I was actually in the museum with him, photographing specimens for him," recalled Lauren. "And I hear him pull out the drawer [of specimens], and go, 'Wow. Lauren, you have to come look at this.'"

Kristofer suspected immediately he was looking at specimens of a previously undescribed new mammal. And -- get this -- he made the suspected discovery ten years ago.

"My team knows I like to be thorough," explained Kristofer Helgen, "and we wanted to know a lot more. I didn't just want to publish this animal and just introduce it to the world and only be able to show you some skins and some skulls on a table. I wanted to see what else we could figure out about this animal."

Helgen and his team went to the upper elevation rain forests of South America, where they found and photographed the two-pound, tree-dwelling creatures they have named olinguitos.

There is another twist to the story. They found evidence that an olinguito had been brought to the U.S. in the 1960s and the 1970s. An old black-and-white photograph shows the creature that was shuffled from one U.S. zoo to another (during that time period) in hopes of getting it to mate with other South American raccoon-like creatures.

The mating failed because it was an entirely different species: one we now call an olinguito.

------

Online:

Smithsonian: http://smithsonianscience.org/2013/08/olinguito/

  • Viral StoriesMore>>

  • Dutch scramble jets after Russian bombers approach

    Dutch scramble jets after Russian bombers approach

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:59 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:59:23 GMT
    AMSTERDAM (AP) -- The Dutch defense department says several NATO member countries scrambled jets Wednesday afternoon after a pair of Russian bomber planes approached their airspace over the North Sea. The Dutch ministry identified the planes as two Russian TU-95 Bears, and said it had launched two F-16s from Volkel air force base to intercept them. The Russian jets were escorted by aircraft from the Netherlands, Britain and Denmark until they departed. Maj. Wilko Ter Horst said "that's why w...
    AMSTERDAM (AP) -- The Dutch defense department says several NATO member countries scrambled jets Wednesday afternoon after a pair of Russian bomber planes approached their airspace over the North Sea. The Dutch ministry identified the planes as two Russian TU-95 Bears, and said it had launched two F-16s from Volkel air force base to intercept them. The Russian jets were escorted by aircraft from the Netherlands, Britain and Denmark until they departed. Maj. Wilko Ter Horst said "that's why w...
  • Study: Naps linked with higher risk of death

    Study: Naps linked with higher risk of death

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:50 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:50:30 GMT
    New research shows middle-age and older adults who take naps may be at increased risk of dying. Experts discovered naps were linked with an increased risk of dying from respiratory diseases.
    New research shows middle-age and older adults who take naps may be at increased risk of dying. Experts discovered naps were linked with an increased risk of dying from respiratory diseases.
  • America's middle class falling behind

    America's middle class falling behind

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:49 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:49:33 GMT
    America's middle class has always been known as the most affluent in the world. But, that may not be the case anymore. A new study finds that our country's middle class has stalled. According to the New York Times, in 2010, Canada and America were at a dead heat for median income.
    America's middle class has always been known as the most affluent in the world. But, that may not be the case anymore. A new study finds that our country's middle class has stalled. According to the New York Times, in 2010, Canada and America were at a dead heat for median income.

Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices