Guys (and gals), this is a big deal - a discovery of this nature is a rare occurrence. According to CNN, the olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe) is “the first mammalian carnivore species to be newly identified in the Americas [hi, South America!] in 35 years." But don’t worry, all of you who are afraid of cute cuddly animals, these little guys basically stay up in the Ecuadorian and Columbian trees jumping around from one to the other, so it’s unlikely you will see one.
If you do happen to be up or near these trees, then look out for the bushy tailed, red-orange furred, rounded face of Mr(s). Olinguito.
As it turns out, scientists had seen this little tree creature before, but they mistakenly classified them as olingos, a sister species, kind of like humans and chimpanzees being confused into the same species... oops! Key distinctions between the two species that will help bystanders differentiate between the olingos, who are larger, less furry, and have longer faces, and the olinguito, who, well, don't have those features. “Even people who live in the Andes had the same confusion about olinguitos being olingos, because humans don't hunt them and the creatures stay in the trees,” says Kristofer Helgen, a curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. His research group will publish its study on the creature in the journal ZooKeys.
Helgen reminisces about his experience in 2003 at the Chicago Field Museum, when he pulled out a drawer of skins and skulls that he had never seen before - the teeth and skulls were too small and strangely shaped to be an olingo's! The coat was thicker, as well.
But alas, the mystery was solved upon seeing an olinguito for his first time. Helgen reports that he felt "sheer elation, just incredible excitement but at the same time almost disbelief. This animal had been missed by everyone." Wow, we wish we had been there too!