NC State professor aids discovery of new carnivore - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

NC State professor aids discovery of new carnivore

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A team of scientists that includes a professor from N.C. State University has uncovered the first carnivore species to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years, officials announced Thursday.

The creature had a mistaken identity for 100 years. But scientists – including Roland Kays, of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a professor at North Carolina State University – uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal now called "olinguito."

The team's discovery is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal ZooKeys.

The olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe) looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear but is actually the latest scientifically documented member of the family Procyonidae, officials said. It is related to raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. (Olinguito means "little olingo.")

The 2-pound olinguito, with its large eyes and woolly orange-brown fur, is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, as hinted at in its scientific name, "neblina" (Spanish for "fog").

"The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed," Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said in a statement. "If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world's species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth."

Discovering the new species of carnivore  took a decade, and was not the project's original goal -completing the first comprehensive study of olingos, several species of tree-living carnivores in the genus Bassaricyon, was. Helgen's team wanted to understand how many olingo species should be recognized and how these species are distributed - issues that had long been unclear to scientists. Unexpectedly, the team's close examination of more than 95 percent of the world's olingo specimens in museums, along with new DNA testing and the review of historic field data, revealed existence of the olinguito, a previously undescribed species.

The first clue came from the olinguito's teeth and skull, which were smaller and differently shaped than those of olingos. Examining museum skins revealed that this new species was also smaller overall with a longer and denser coat; field records showed that it occurred in a unique area of the northern Andes Mountains at 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level―elevations much higher than the known species of olingo.

The team had a lucky break that started with a camcorder video. With confirmation of the olinguito's existence via a few seconds of grainy video shot by their colleague Miguel Pinto, a zoologist in Ecuador, Helgen and Kays set off on a three-week expedition to find the animal themselves. Working with Pinto, they found olinguitos in a forest on the western slopes of the Andes, and spent their days documenting what they could about the animal - its characteristics and its forest home. They learned that the olinguito is mostly active at night, is mainly a fruit eater, rarely comes out of the trees and has one baby at a time.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Sheriff's Office showcases "Faces of Meth" program as a lesson to all

    Sheriff's Office showcases "Faces of Meth" program as a lesson to all

    Monday, July 21 2014 11:33 AM EDT2014-07-21 15:33:26 GMT
    Faces of Meth™ is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Oregon. This project began when a deputy in the Corrections Division Classification Unit, Deputy Bret King, put together mug shots of persons booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center. Deputy King worked with his co-workers in the Classification Unit to identify people who had been in custody more than once. He then worked to verify criminal records and files to determine and assure a history of methamphetamine re...
    Faces of Meth™ is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Oregon. This project began when a deputy in the Corrections Division Classification Unit, Deputy Bret King, put together mug shots of persons booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center. Deputy King worked with his co-workers in the Classification Unit to identify people who had been in custody more than once. He then worked to verify criminal records and files to determine and assure a history of methamphetamine re...
  • Search Underway After Police Chase, Crash

    Search Underway After Police Chase, Crash

    Thursday, July 24 2014 7:38 AM EDT2014-07-24 11:38:55 GMT
    Liberty County authorities are searching for two people who fled on foot after a police chase ended in a crash.
    Liberty County authorities are searching for two people who fled on foot after a police chase ended in a crash.
  • Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 1:08 PM EDT2014-07-22 17:08:35 GMT
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
  • Trending StoriesTrending StoriesMore>>

  • 77-year-old questioned, defended as true Marine after NFL player takes his photo

    77-year-old questioned, defended as true Marine after NFL player takes his photo

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 1:58 PM EDT2014-07-22 17:58:35 GMT
    (WMC) - It was a story that made its rounds on social media. On a recent flight DeAngelo Williams, Mid-Southerner and running back for the Carolina Panthers, gave his first-class plane seat to a 77-year-old
    Family members are upset and hurt that their relative, James Wesley Bolden, is being called a liar and "a fake."
  • Largest companies by revenue in each state

    Largest companies by revenue in each state

    Thursday, July 10 2014 8:01 PM EDT2014-07-11 00:01:10 GMT
    Broadview Networks recently decided to find out the biggest -- by revenue -- company in each state in the US.The company used the Fortune 500 list to start with, but needed data by state, so it turned to Hoover's.With data from that company, they were able to search through each state's list of companies and then find the largest -- by revenue.Just flip through the list above and see who is the biggest in each state, what town they are based and their revenue.
    Broadview Networks recently decided to find out the biggest -- by revenue -- company in each state in the US.The company used the Fortune 500 list to start with, but needed data by state, so it turned to Hoover's.With data from that company, they were able to search through each state's list of companies and then find the largest -- by revenue.Just flip through the list above and see who is the biggest in each state, what town they are based and their revenue.
  • No swimming at some NC beaches due to high bacteria levels

    No swimming at some NC beaches due to high bacteria levels

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 12:36 PM EDT2014-07-23 16:36:19 GMT
    A map of the swimming areas along the NC coast that are affected by the recent high levels of bacteria.A map of the swimming areas along the NC coast that are affected by the recent high levels of bacteria.
    Six advisories and three alerts were issued against swimming Tuesday at nine ocean-side sites along the coast of North Carolina.
    Six advisories and three alerts were issued against swimming Tuesday at nine ocean-side sites along the coast of North Carolina.
Powered by WorldNow

1430 East Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404

Telephone: 912.651.0300
Fax: 912.651.0320
Email: newsemailalert@wsav.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.