Stories tagged mammals


Newly discovered: The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) is the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years.
Newly discovered: The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) is the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years.Courtesy Mark Gurney
The headlines call it the discovery of a new species, but actually, it's been around for quite a while. We just didn't know what it was by thinking it was something else.

But today the Smithsonian Institute announced it's identified a new mammal species, the first new mammal to be identified in the Americas in the last 35 years. In making the announcement of the newly classified olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe), the Smithsoian described its appearance as a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. Native to Ecuador and Columbia, the olinguito is in the same family of mammals as racoons, is a nocturnal carnivore that has been living under a mistaken identity for over 100 years.

The discovery kind of came by mistake as researchers were studying olingos, another South American mammal. Studies of museum-preserved specimens uncovered differences in skull shape and teeth. A research team then went off to northern Andes mountain regions to confirm these differences with live specimens. The found that olinquitos were a smaller, denser-furred look-alike to olingos and recorded their behaviors on video.

It's not like the olinquitos have been hiding or anything. Back in 1920 a New York zoologist thought a specimen he had collected might be a species different from olingos, but never followed up on the work to make the discovery. Olinguitos have been displayed in zoos as olingos at various times in the 1960s and 1970s.


Still image from a video of a Common Raven stripping fur off of a coyote.
Still image from a video of a Common Raven stripping fur off of a coyote.Courtesy Twin Cities Naturalist
A motion activated camera captured remarkable still images in Northern Washington County, Minnesota this week. The camera was set up on a dead coyote in hopes of discovering what scavengers would come eat. Raccoons and crows were not unexpected but it was exciting when Common Ravens showed up on the photos.

Northern Washington County is right on the edge of the breeding range of Ravens and simply seeing them during breeding season is an exciting sign they may be breeding. The photos went even further than simply showing the ravens were present however. What the series of photos which were complied into a video clearly show is a raven stripping the fur from the coyote and then carrying it away. Ravens are known to line their nests with animal fur so this is a clear indication these birds are nesting.

View the entire video here.

Information like this helps scientists build range maps of where birds breed. Many states are building breeding bird atlases with the help of citizen scientists who study bird behavior. Currently Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have active atlas efforts. Find out more and learn how to take part at

Jane Goodall, the internationally-known chimp researcher, will be making a pair of public appreances at the University of Minnesota on Saturday. Here's a link to the details. Both events are free and open to the public.

So what did you do over the weekend? I guess we all missed these wild times going on in Botswana, Africa. Check out this video of an elephant pool party. I wonder if the Republican National Convention will get this crazy here in St. Paul in September?


Giant Panda: Courtesy  drs2biz
Giant Panda: Courtesy drs2biz

Three new panda cubs were born in China this past week. The new births, brings the total of giant pandas born in captivity up to six for the year. The giant panda is an exotic, endangered species mostly found in China. China considers these pandas a national treasure.

One of the three new panda cubs has created quite the stir. Six-year-old Zhang Ka gave birth to the heaviest cub ever born in captivity after the longest labor period. The new cub weighed in at 218 grams (half a pound). Ordinarily, most cubs weigh between 83 and 190 grams at birth. Zhang Ka was in labor for 34 hours making her labor the longest in panda reproduction history. Reports say both the mother and cub are doing well.

Breeding giant pandas in captivity is a cumbersome task. Female pandas ovulate once a year with a tiny conception window. There is a minute window of 24 to 48 hours where artificial insemination methods are conducted. Overall, there are about 1,000 giant pandas living in the wild and about 140 pandas living in zoos and breeding centers around the world (however most are in China).

Giant Panda: Courtesy  Jellyrollhamster
Giant Panda: Courtesy Jellyrollhamster

Giant pandas are bear-like in shape with black and white coloration. Their ears, eye patches, legs and shoulder band are black while the rest of their body is white. Giant pandas live in temperate-zone bamboo forests in central China. Scientists are unsure of their life expectancies in the wild but in captivity the giant panda’s lifespan averages more than twenty years.

Just out of curiosity, what names would you pick for the new panda cubs?


Scientists in China have discovered two fossil mammals from the age of dinosaurs. One still had in its stomach the remains of its last meal--a baby dinosaur. The other mammal, the size of a modern dog, is by far the largest mammal known from this period.

These fossils are cool for a bunch of reasons. Complete skeletons are rare, and skeletons with stomach contents preserved are extremely valuable: they tell us who ate who, and how animals related to each other and to their environment.