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Olinguito, Colombian Woolley Forest Mammal Named As New Species (PICTURES)

15/08/2013 14:47 BST | Updated 15/10/2013 10:12 BST

A mammal described as looking like “a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear” has been named as a new species – after being wrongly identified for 100 years.

The olinguito is related to raccoons and coatis and lives in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador.

And for more than a century the woolly-furred creature has been mistaken for its larger cousin, the olingo.

olinguito

The olinguito lives in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador

The little critter (they typically weigh only 2lbs) is the first New World carnivore to be identified in 35 years.

In a report on the discovery, US scientists from the Smithsonion Institute in Washington DC described the creature's appearance as "a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear".

Compared with the olingo, its teeth and skull are smaller and shaped differently, and its orange-brown fur is longer and denser.

olinguito

Olinguitos eat fruit as well as meat and rarely leave the trees

"The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed," said Dr Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

"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.”

The animal's scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina and it is mostly active at night. It eats fruit as well as meat, rarely leaves the trees, and has one offspring at a time.

It's habitat is under heavy pressure from human development, said the scientists writing in the journal ZooKeys.

An estimated 42% of olinguito habitat has already been urbanised or converted to agriculture.

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