11 New Animal Discoveries
Some of the many exciting new species discovered in 2013.
The discovery brings the count of known-legless lizard species in California to five. The first of the four new lizards was discovered in a vacant lot in downtown Bakersfield, California and its discovery spurred the researchers to search for more. Since these lizards can be difficult to find because they live hidden in sandy soil, the scientists used large pieces of cardboard and plywood scraps to attract them at a variety of locations. In the end, they found four species of legless lizards hiding in four different locations: Bakersfield, dry canyons on the edge of the Mojave Desert, a field full of oil derricks, and a sand dune bordering a runway at Los Angeles International Airport.
“It’s pretty cool because these are discoveries right here in California,” said Papenfuss. “A lot of people think if you want to find a new species, you have to go to Borneo or Madagascar. Well, not really. There’s unknown biodiversity to still be uncovered right here.”
This cute, furry raccoon-sized mammal is called the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) and it was “discovered” in a natural history museum. Smithsonian scientist Kristofer Helgen was sorting through specimens of a related group of animals called olingos when he started finding misidentified remains of what appeared to be a different species. When he and his colleagues studied the skins and skulls of both the olingo and the mislabeled species they found that the two were in fact very different. The newly discovered animal, now named olinguito, has uniquely shaped teeth and a smaller skull with a less pronounced snout. It is overall a smaller animal with a rounder face, littler ears, and fluffier fur and is more orangish-brown; the olingo is a duller tan or grey color.
Both the olingo and olinguito are members of the raccoon family, in the order Carnivora (along with bears, cats, dogs and other mammals). “With so many millions of specimens available for study at natural history museums and so much life on earth, it might not be unexpected to uncover an overlooked animal species in a museum collection,” Helgen explained, “but to find one in this order carnivora was really unexpected and really exciting. This is the best studied portion of the mammal tree of life.”
The nocturnal olinguito lives in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia. Currently it is not considered endangered. The discovery of the olinguito was announced on August 15, 2013 in the journal ZooKeys.
4. Caqueta titi monkey
With a chestnut red-colored belly and beard, the newly discovered Caqueta titi monkey or Callicebus caquetensis, is only about the size of a domestic cat. But that’s not where the feline similarities end. Baby Caquetas have a particularly cute, kitty-like trait: “When they feel very content, they purr towards each other,” explained researcher Thomas Defler in a press release for the World Wildlife Fund.
The Caqueta titi monkey was among the 441 new species of animals and plants discovered by the WWF in an underexplored Amazon rainforest. It is one of about 20 known species of titi monkey that live in the Amazon basin. These monkeys are monogamous and rear just one young per year.