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>>

  • Former Virginia Hospital Center technician charged with raping patient

    Former Virginia Hospital Center technician charged with raping patient

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 9:05 AM EDT2014-04-15 13:05:25 GMT
    A former Virginia Hospital Center technician has been arrested and charged with rape after a patient says he attacked her while she was being treated in January.
    A former Virginia Hospital Center technician has been arrested and charged with rape after a patient says he attacked her while she was being treated in January.
  • Cuba slashes more than 100,000 health care jobs

    Cuba slashes more than 100,000 health care jobs

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 9:35 AM EDT2014-04-08 13:35:59 GMT
    HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban authorities say they have eliminated more than 100,000 jobs in health care, considered one of the pillars of the 1959 revolution. The cuts come as President Raul Castro tries to streamline government as part of a broader economic reform package. The weekly labor newspaper Trabajadores said Monday that 109,000 health care positions have been cut. Two years ago, Cuba said more than 50,000 jobs in that sector had been slashed. Most of the cuts came in less-skilled positions...
    HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban authorities say they have eliminated more than 100,000 jobs in health care, considered one of the pillars of the 1959 revolution. The cuts come as President Raul Castro tries to streamline government as part of a broader economic reform package. The weekly labor newspaper Trabajadores said Monday that 109,000 health care positions have been cut. Two years ago, Cuba said more than 50,000 jobs in that sector had been slashed. Most of the cuts came in less-skilled positions...
  • Scam warning after callers claim arrest unless payment made

    Scam warning after callers claim arrest unless payment made

    Thursday, April 3 2014 7:56 AM EDT2014-04-03 11:56:45 GMT
    A warning is in from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office about a phone scam. Someone is calling unsuspecting victims, claiming to be from the Sheriff’s Office.
    A warning is in from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office about a phone scam. Someone is calling unsuspecting victims, claiming to be from the Sheriff’s Office.

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