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This is an olinguito, Bassaricyon neblina. It’s the first new carnivore discovered in the Western hemisphere for 35 years. If that makes you think pith helmets and bark canoes and native guides and paddling up the Amazon, you are thinking a wrong thing. It was discovered in storage at a museum in Chicago. Hundred year old bones and skins.

The man who discovered it is curator of mammals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, which surely makes his mama very proud. He was going through a box of stuff and realized this wasn’t anything he had seen before, so he had it DNA tested. Sure enough, it’s something new.

That’s not a tool zookeepers had available in 1967, when it’s now believed an olinguito was put on display. He was put in with the olingas, which is apparently a close relative. They always wondered why the sucker wouldn’t breed.

That’s right. They’ve discovered a little brown animal that is so close to another little brown animal, trained zookeepers couldn’t tell them apart. Hoo, boy! Exciting!

Still, I thought it was interesting to know that most discoveries of new animals are happening this way — DNA testing of fusty old taxidermies in hundred year old natural history collections. Oh, but afterwards, somebody did go to South America to look for the little bastards. And found them.

Sadly, not a mustelid. Nor yet a bear. It’s a member of the same family as raccoons (lookit the little hands!). It supplants the last new carnivore discovered in the Americas, the Colombian Weasel.

Colombian Weasel. It doesn’t bear thinking of, coked up weasels.

August 15, 2013 — 9:04 pm
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