A new, raccoon like species who looks like a cross between a cat and a teddy bear, has been discovered.
While the newly discovered mammal may be new to scientists, it appears the animal has existed for years without being notices by humans. The creature has been named an olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe). It was previously confused with its sister species, Olingos, which are actually larger in size and have less fur.
"It was in museums, it's been in zoos, and its DNA had even been sequenced, but no one had connected the pieces and looked close enough to realize, basically, the significance of this remarkable and this beautiful animal," Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said according to CNN.
Olinguito's have red-orange fur and spend most of their lives in trees, a large reason why they remained undiscovered for so long. At about 2.5 feet long from nose tip to tail tip, the olinguito weighs about 2 pounds and is a little smaller than a house cat.
Both the olingos and olinguitos belong to the raccoon family. According to Helgen, there four subspecies of olinguitos, which vary slightly in size and color.
Helgen first discovered the bones over 10 years ago in a museum drawer. He noticed that some of the bones in the container were not a match, which launched further investigation and research. In the fall of 2006, a team of researchers set out for an expedition in Ecuadorian Andes to see if the mystery animal could be found.
"We didn't even know if it would be still alive, or if we could find it," Roland Kays, a member of that party, told NBC News.
The mammal made an appearance on the first night of the expedition. Helgen described the feeling he felt after first seeing the animal as "sheer elation, just incredible excitement but at the same time almost disbelief."
"This animal had been missed by everyone," he told CNN.