Meet the olinguito, a newly discovered species that looks like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat. Found in the cloud forests of the Andes, it is the first mammal of the carnivoran order to be discovered in the Americas for 35 years.
The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) belongs to a group of mammals called the olingos, which are related to raccoons and coatis. We know little about them, so 10 years ago Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and colleagues began trying to figure out how many species of olingo there are and how they are related.
After examining specimens in museums, Helgen came across several that were unusually small, which all came from high in the Andes mountain range. All other olingos live much lower, so Helgen realised that the miniature olingos, which he named olinguitos, must be a separate species. No one else had twigged, even though live olinguitos had been exhibited in zoos.
Encouraged by some grainy video footage that seemed to show a live specimen, Helgen travelled to the western slopes of the Andes and managed to find the olinguitos. They weigh slightly less than 1 kilogram, spend almost all their time in the trees and are mostly active at night. Although they belong to the carnivoran group of mammals, they largely eat fruit.