Science, Tech & Environment

Olinguito: New Carnivore, Found in a Drawer

69301446_1photoofolinguito-e1376596401197.jpg

The olinguito is the first new carnivore species discovered in 35 years. (Photo: Mark Gurney/BBC)

It's no big deal to find a new species these days. Scientists are finding them almost everywhere they look.

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

But most of them are bacteria and other microbes. It is rare to find an unknown vertebrate, even rarer to find a carnivore that no one has ever documented.

But that's what zoologist Kristopher Helgen found he ventured into the wilds of a Chicago museum.

"When I pulled out a drawer and saw these skins and skulls it stopped me in my tracks," Helgen told the BBC. "Everything was off, it was different."

Helgen did some research, including taking DNA samples, and realized that what he was looking at was a previously unknown relative of the raccoon.

He learned that the specimen was taken from the Andes in South America.

And having discovered this new species in the museum, he says, "I wanted to know, is it still out there? We went down to the cloud forest of Ecuador, and there it was."

Helgen named the creature the olinguito.

And it turns out it's the first newly discovered carnivore in 35 years.