Smithsonian researcher discovers new mammal species - Los Angeles Local News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

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>>

  • Maryland Transportation Authority in nest battle with osprey

    Maryland Transportation Authority in nest battle with osprey

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:05 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:05:24 GMT
    It has been a rough few days for a grand ole osprey trying to build a nest for the eggs it needs to lay. The trouble is where the bird wants to nest: in front of a traffic camera on a highway gantry perched above the eastbound lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
    It has been a rough few days for a grand ole osprey trying to build a nest for the eggs it needs to lay. The trouble is where the bird wants to nest: in front of a traffic camera on a highway gantry perched above the eastbound lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
  • New Americans turn to goats to address food demand

    New Americans turn to goats to address food demand

    Friday, April 18 2014 12:26 PM EDT2014-04-18 16:26:04 GMT
    COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) -- A bunch of kids in a minivan are solving twin challenges in northern Vermont: refugees struggling to find the food of their homelands and farmers looking to offload unwanted livestock. The half dozen kids - that is, baby goats - that arrived last week at Pine Island Farm were the latest additions to the Vermont Goat Collaborative, a project that brings together new Americans hungry for goat meat with dairy goat farmers who have no need for young male animals. Some dai...
    COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) -- A bunch of kids in a minivan are solving twin challenges in northern Vermont: refugees struggling to find the food of their homelands and farmers looking to offload unwanted livestock. The half dozen kids - that is, baby goats - that arrived last week at Pine Island Farm were the latest additions to the Vermont Goat Collaborative, a project that brings together new Americans hungry for goat meat with dairy goat farmers who have no need for young male animals. Some dai...
  • Bodies of 2 men found dead in DC

    Bodies of 2 men found dead in DC

    Thursday, April 17 2014 7:22 AM EDT2014-04-17 11:22:40 GMT
    Police in the district are investigating after the bodies of two men who were found dead Wednesday.
    Police in the district are investigating after the bodies of two men who were found dead Wednesday.

Powered by WorldNow

KTTV FOX 11
1999 S. Bundy Dr.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Main: (310) 584-2000
News Tips? (310) 584-2025

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