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Scientists Discovered an Adorable New Mammal: Meet the Olinguito!

Olinguito Mammal AP Photo/Mark Gurney

Happy birthday, ya little cutie!

Today, Smithsonian scientists announced that they had discovered a new species of mammals, the first significant find in 35 years. And, as the greatest minds in science have described it, "It looks kind of like a fuzzball."

Meet the olinguito (pronounced "oh-lihn-GEE'-toe" aka da Bassaricyon neblina), the newest creature in the running to become your spirit animal.

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The red-brown critter is 2 feet long and weighs about 2 pounds (it's so tiny!). If you ask us, it looks like a raccoon with bear ears and an opossum nose (but not gross). If you ask Kristofer Helgen, the curator of mammals at the Smithsonian, it's "a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat."

That works for us too. 

So how did something this cute evade us for so long? It didn't, really. You may have even seen an olinguito before. One was displayed in the Smithsonian-run National Zoo for a year in 1975, but mistaken for an olingo (they now even share a similar name). 

"It's been kind of hiding in plain sight for a long time," Helgen explains. A decade ago, Helgen and his team began the search for the olinguito and their journey took them to South America.

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"We found it in the very first night," another researcher involved with the discovery, Roland Kays of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, recalls. "It was like it was waiting for us."

For now, the olinguito is mostly believed to live in the trees of Ecuador and Colombia, but may possibly also live in Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Guyana.

"The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed," Helgen says. "What other surprises await us?" 

Fingers crossed it's a unicorn.

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