The olinguito is distinct from the other species within the genus, popularly known as "olingos", and also from the kinkajou (kinkajous resemble olingos, but are not closely related). Its average weight is 900 grams (2 lb), making it the smallest procyonid. The animal is an omnivorous frugivore that eats mainly fruits (such as figs), but also insects and nectar resulting in feces the size of small blueberries. The olinguito is thought to be solitary, nocturnal:29:30 and moderately reclusive. Olinguitos appear to be strictly arboreal. They have a single pair of mammae, and probably produce a single offspring at a time.
Distribution and habitat
Specimens of the species have been identified from the Andean cloud forest stretching from western Colombia to Ecuador. Its discovery was confirmed in the wild and announced on 15 August 2013. The species is not considered to be immediately at risk, but it is estimated that over 40 percent of the animal's potential range has been deforested.
Its discovery was announced on 15 August 2013 by Kristofer Helgen, the curator of mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, olingo expert Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and collaborators. Helgen discovered specimens of the species in storage at The Field Museum in Chicago and used DNA testing to confirm a new species.
The researchers who identified the species were unable to discover any local names specific to it.
The discovery was the first identification of a new mammal species of the order Carnivora[note 1] in the Americas in 35 years. Olinguitos were regularly seen and even publicly exhibited decades before they were recognized as members of a new species. The animal had previously been confused with its taxonomic cousins, the olingos. One such example was Ringerl, an olinguito who lived in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., for a year and also toured many other zoos. Researchers unsuccessfully tried to breed her with olingos, not realizing she was a different species. Ringerl died in 1976.
The olinguito is smaller than the other species in the genus Bassaricyon. It is also much furrier, has a different tooth configuration, a shorter tail, and smaller ears. The olinguito is found in the northern Andes at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,750 metres (4,920 and 9,020 ft) above sea level, which is much higher than the habitats for other olingos.
Comparison of DNA from two olinguito subspecies to other olingo and related species was carried out on the basis of genetic dissimilarity derived from Kimura modeling of differences in base-pair composition of mitochondrial cytochrome b. The genetic divergence between olinguitos and other olingos makes olinguitos a sister lineage to the rest of the genus, and is equivalent to differences between species which have been assigned to separate subgenera or genera. This split apparently occurred about 3.5 million years ago, suggesting that the earliest diversification of the genus took place in northwestern South America shortly after the ancestors of olingos first invaded the continent from Central America as part of the Great American Interchange.
- Borenstein, Seth (15 August 2013). "Adorable New Mammal Species Found 'In Plain Sight'". ABC News. Archived from the original on 16 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Koepfli, Klaus-Peter; Gompper, Matthew E.; Eizirik, Eduardo; Ho, Cheuk-Chung; Linden, Leif; Maldonado, Jesus E.; Wayne, Robert K. (2007). "Phylogeny of the Procyonidae (Mammalia: Carnivora): Molecules, morphology and the Great American Interchange". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43 (3): 1076–95. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.10.003. PMID 17174109.
- Helgen, K. M.; Pinto, M.; Kays, R.; Helgen, L.; Tsuchiya, M.; Quinn, A.; Wilson, D.; Maldonado, J. (15 August 2013). "Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito". ZooKeys 324: 1–83. doi:10.3897/zookeys.324.5827.
- Stromberg, Joseph (15 August 2013). "For the First Time in 35 Years, A New Carnivorous Mammal Species is Discovered in the American Continents". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- O'Brien, Jane (15 August 2013). "Olinguito: 'Overlooked' mammal carnivore is major discovery". BBC News. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Roland Kays. Press conference at North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Livestream (video). 15 August 2013 
- Landau, Elizabeth (15 August 2013). "New cute furry mammal species discovered". CNN. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Kim, Meeri (16 August 2013). "Smithsonian unearths a new species of mammal: The olinguito". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- CBC news. New mammal discovered in Andean cloud forest
- "New animal discovered in Andes". WRAL. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "A new mammal. Peekaboo". The Economist. 17 August 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Sample, Ian. Carnivore 'teddy bear' emerges from the mists of Ecuador. Guardian. Thursday 15 August 2013
- The dictionary definition of Olinguito at Wiktionary
- Media related to Bassaricyon neblina at Wikimedia Commons
- Data related to Bassaricyon neblina at Wikispecies
- Photographs of olinguito female and cub in La Mesenia Reserve Conservation Project, Colombia