MY LIFETIME FOCUS REMAINS THE HUMANITIES. AFTER MANY YEARS OF ACADEMIC WRITING AND A TWO-YEAR LAYOFF FROM BLOGGING, I HAVE RE-KINDLED MY INTEREST IN THE NONFICTION GENRE. I ENJOY POSTING A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION FROM MY PERSPECTIVE AND WELCOME ALL COMMENTS FROM READERS.
Have you ever heard of an olingo? I confess I have not. I
have traveled through South America and Central America, but never saw or heard
of the species.
Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, olingos
are nocturnal mammals, similar to kinkajous, which are related to raccoons. Kinkajous
and olingos are prime examples of parallel evolution. Since I have seen a
kinkajou in a South American, it is even quite possible I did view an olingo,
since they are often confused, even by experts.
What none of us has ever seen is an olinguito. It is a new species of mammal discovered only recently
in Ecuador and Columbia. The olinguito is raccoon-sized, with a face that looks
more like a stuffed teddy bear than a raccoon. In fact, it belongs to an animal
class that also includes bears, raccoons, and even canines. The Washington Zoo
exhibited one for a whole year as a kinkajou before realizing its mistake.
Olinguitos are smaller, with shorter tails, smaller ears, rounder faces, and
darker, bushier fur than both kinkajous and olingos. These fruit-eaters weigh
only two pounds, and bear only one offspring at a time.
AP Photo: Mark Gurney
Finding a new species of mammal is rare, indeed. The
olinguito is the first one in many years. In fact, most people choose to believe
there are no new mammal species. Yet, at the risk of offending those with a non-scientific
approach to life, scientists have apparently proved mammal evolution. It will
be interesting to see the fallout from Nature’s new gift to this planet.