Scientists from the U.S. Smithsonian Institute have discovered a new carnivorous mammal in the highland jungles of Ecuador and Colombia. It is the first new carnivore species found in the western hemisphere in 35 years.
Called the olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe), the newly classified animal is a member of the raccoon family and weighs in at two pounds. It looks like a squeezable hybrid of a rusty-colored housecat and a teddy bear, scientists say.
“The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” said Smithsonian curator, Kristofer Helgen, who made the discovery after a decade of research and tracking animals in the South American wild.
Scientists say the olinguito species has been around for hundreds of millions of years. Scientists had been aware of it but thought it was a member of previously identified species.
Although it eats some meat, and is thereore classified as a carnivor, the olinguito lives primarily on a diet of fruits and leaves.
There are about 5,500 mammalian species in the world, according to scientists, with only 280 classified as carnivores. People are one of those species.
New mamal species discovered in Ecuador and Colombia
Photo caption: A olinguito in the northeastern Ecuador