The Edmond Sun

Features

August 15, 2013

Smithsonian unearths a new species of carnivore: the olinguito

After years of sleuthing, Smithsonian scientists have come up with a new species of mammal - the olinguito.

The rust-colored, furry mammal lives in the treetops of the Andes Mountains and weighs two pounds, making it the most petite member of the raccoon family. It dines on fruits such as figs but also enjoys insects and plant nectar, according to the Smithsonian Institution, which announced the discovery Thursday.

The olinguito is the first new species of carnivore found in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years. Finding a new mammal, especially a carnivore, is rare.

The discovery corrects a long-running case of mistaken identity. For decades, scientists thought the mammal was an olingo, a larger member of the raccoon family, or another mammal. The animals had been observed in the wild, tucked away in museum collections and even exhibited at zoos - including the National Zoo.

 No one realized it was a new species until further investigation and DNA testing.



 "In some ways, this animal was hiding in plain sight," said zoologist Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, who helped discover the olinguito. Its pelts and bones were found stashed away in dusty museum drawers, either mislabeled or not labeled at all.

The animal puzzled zookeepers because it oddly refused to breed or mingle with other olingos.

"They thought it was just a fussy olingo, but turns out it was completely the wrong species," said Smithsonian zoologist Kristofer Helgen, who spearheaded the sleuthing on the olinguito, which is Spanish for "little olingo."

"Getting a new scientific name out there is really fun," he said. "It's almost like giving birth."

Although olinguitos have been spotted in the cloud forests of the northern Andes - in rain forests at elevations of 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level - scientists speculate the animals also might live elsewhere in Central and South America.

Finding the species was sort of an accident. Helgen initially went museum-digging because he was determined to find out how many species of the olingo existed. At the Field Museum of Chicago, what he found in a drawer stopped him dead in his tracks.

The reddish-orange pelts he saw were nothing like the skins of the olingos. Searching further, he learned that the anatomy of the skull was different - shorter snout, dissimilar teeth.

"I knew at that point it was a new species, but I also knew I needed to be sure," Helgen said. For years, he toiled away to confirm that the olinguito was a new species with thorough investigation and DNA testing, always afraid that another scientist would beat him to the punch.

Finally, he called upon Kays, the world's resident olingo expert, to help him track down a wild olinguito in its natural habitat. The researchers, along with Ecuadorian zoologist Miguel Pinto, set off on a weeks-long field expedition to the Andean cloud forests.

Amid the misty treetops and giant tomato-sized figs, the team spotted one the first night.

 "It sort of bounced around the trees almost like a monkey," Kays said, "doing its thing, eating the figs."

Zoologist DeeAnn M. Reeder of Bucknell University, co-curator of a scientific database of mammals, finds the olinguito to be an "extraordinarily beautiful animal" and says that to describe a new carnivore in the 21st century is "special and amazing."

"This gets people excited about science and museum work, and about the things you can discover," she said.

 

1
Text Only
Features
  • NAMI classes begin in September

    NAMI Edmond North-OKC, the local organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will offer its Family-to-Family Education Program beginning Sept. 2. It will contine Sept. 4 and 8-9. Classes will be at Crossings Community Church, Quail Springs United Methodist Church, Francis Tuttle Technology Center (Portland campus), Tinker AFB Chapel and the Thunderbird Club House in Norman.
    NAMI Family-to-Family is a free 12-session education program for family caregivers of adults living with mental illness. The sessions are offered once a week for a few hours each.

    July 30, 2014

  • clinic 1.jpg Edmond church to host free eye clinic

    An Edmond church and Feed the Children are partnering to provide a free eye clinic.
    Individuals will be able to receive a free vision test and free prescription eye glasses from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Waterloo Road Baptist Church, 3100 E. Waterloo Road. All ages are welcome and registration is not required.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • UCO forensic volunteer wants to aid more agencies

    A four-person group of forensic investigators who volunteer their time to help smaller Oklahoma police departments isn’t enough to meet demand, a member said.
    Kama King, who recently completed her graduate research and will be a member of the faculty at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Forensic Science Institute, said outside of full-time jobs, members of the group volunteer to assist these agencies.
    As her career progresses, King hopes to help establish a permanently funded organization available to any agency in the state to assist in remains recovery as well as related training.

    July 29, 2014

  • jc_ITS map.jpg City to improve traffic flow

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • 11.6.12 Mother and Cub (2).jpg UCO forensic researcher answers key question

    After working a few human recovery cases on a volunteer basis with a variety of police departments, a question kept bugging Kama King.
    “You spend the whole day,” the UCO W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute student said, “sometimes days, searching for someone and only find a skull or a few bones and it just ate at me. Are we not finding this or is it not there to be found?”

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Karan & Rwanda.jpg Peace through Business empowering women entrepreneurs

    Peace Through Business is part of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) based in Oklahoma City. It is a program that connects small business entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda with business owners in Oklahoma. One such entrepreneur found out about the program from a friend, applied, and was accepted to take part in this year’s session.
    Upon earning a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Universite de Sciences et Technique de Lille in Belgium, Lyliose Nduhungirehe began her career working for a construction company in Brussels, but she quickly switched paths to Information Technology.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How to care for your pet without breaking the bank

    It’s a shame furry friends can’t pay for themselves. Though wagging tails after a long day at work may make pet ownership seem worthwhile, a happy pup won’t stop those bills from rolling in at the end of the month. Thankfully, quick and easy ways exist for dog owners to cut down on costs.

    July 28, 2014

  • MS_new pastor_Page_1.tiff Local church welcomes new pastor

    For one of Edmond’s newest pastors, faith and family intersect on a personal level.
    Sam Powers, pastor at Edmond 1st United Methodist Church, 305 E. Hurd St., and his family arrived in mid-May and his first Sunday in the pulpit was the second one in June. He and his wife Sheryl Heaton Powers, have two children — Kyla will be an eighth-grader at Cheyenne Middle School and David will be a fifth-grader at John Ross Elementary.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • pm_Ramona Paul.jpg Keith, 5 others to receive service awards

    The 2014 Door-Opener Awards Gala dinner and silent auction Sept. 4, benefitting ASTEC Charter Schools, will recognize five outstanding Oklahomans and one Kansan for lifetime contributions made toward helping others in society maximize potential and achieve dreams.
    Those selected to receive a Door-Opener Award at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel event include Dr. Harvey Dean, Pittsburg, Kan.; Toby Keith and Tricia Covel, Norman; Former Gov. George P. Nigh, Edmond; the late Dr. Ramona Paul, Edmond; and Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma City.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos