Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fluffy robbers from the Andes - Spiegel Online


He looks like a mix of cat and teddy bear and lives in the cloud forests of the Andes – the Olinguito. Which researchers have the first mammalian but not in the wild, but in museums. It was the first time in 35 years that a new carnivore has been discovered in the Western Hemisphere, the scientists write in the journal “ZooKeys.”

Actually, the team wanted to find out Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, how many types of Makibären, also called Olingos, there are and where they live. They investigated numerous museum exhibits to this species.

Here they noticed that some specimens smaller and differently shaped skull and teeth were as the rest They were also smaller overall and had dense fur. According to the available records of these animals all came from an area in the northern Andes, from 1500 to 2700 meters above sea level.

This is far higher than the known habitat of Olingos, the researchers noted. Genetic studies have confirmed that this is a new way for the alleged Olingos, just the Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina).

Relates to raccoons and coatis

existing in the museums information about the animals were quite old. They were the beginning of the 20th Recorded century, when the animals were caught. For the team, therefore, the question whether the Olinguitos are still to be found in the wild.

They organized an expedition to the Andes and could actually watch some Olinguitos in the wild. The researchers found that the animals are nocturnal, primarily eat fruits, rarely come down from the trees and each draw a pup.

Olinguitos belong to the family of raccoons (procyonidae) to which, among others, raccoons and coatis. The wildlife is now officially gained another type with the discovery. As Olingo but many people have already admired the Olinguito -., Not only in the museums, but also in U.S. zoos, where at least one copy from Colombia living in the sixties and seventies

ambassador for the cloud forests

“The discovery of Olinguitos shows us that the world is not yet fully understood and not yet revealed all its secrets are essential,” Helgen said. “If still new predators can be spotted – what surprises are waiting for us?”

The scientist, however, also points out that the Olinguito was in danger. About 42 percent of its habitat had already been converted to farmland or settlement area.

“The cloud forests of the Andes are a world unto itself, filled with species that are found nowhere else, and many of which are endangered,” said Helgen. “We hope that the Olinguito an ambassador for the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia is the public’s attention and draws on these critical habitats.”

The discovery of a predator is at the beginning of the 21st Century certainly a rarity. But new species of mammal scientists still are described. Several years ago, biologists met in Africa, for example, to a science yet unknown species of ape. The Lesula monkeys (Cercopithecus lomamiensis) lives hidden in the Lomami region in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Not always the new species are completely unknown until their discovery. They are often redefined as a separate species due to modern genetic methods.


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