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.