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We designate as the holotype of neblina specimen number 66753 in the mammalogy collection of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, a skin and complete skull of an old adult female, from Las Máquinas (= Las Machinas [see Voss 1988:474], circa 00°32’S, 78°39’W, 2130 m), Pichincha Province, Ecuador, collected 21 September 1923 by G.H.H. Tate.
QCAZ 0159, partial skin, Otonga Reserve, 1800 m, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador; MECN 2177, adult female, skin and skull, La Cantera 2300 m, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador; QCAZ 8661, young adult female, skin, skull, and postcranial skeleton, Otonga Reserve, 2100 m, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador (collected by K. Helgen et al., August 2006); QCAZ 8662, young adult female, skin, skull, and postcranial skeleton, [“forested gully near”] La Cantera, 2260 m, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador (collected by M. Pinto et al., August 2006). We have also seen photographs of this species from Tandayapa, 2350 m, Pichincha Province (Figure 13). Below, we identify additional referred specimens when we describe three additional subspecies of Bassaricyon neblina from the cordilleras of Colombia (Figures 9–10, 13–16).
Bassaricyon neblina can be easily identified on the basis of both external and craniodental characteristics (Figures 3–7, Tables 3–5). It differs from other Bassaricyon in its smaller body and cranial size; longer, denser, and more richly coloured dorsal pelage (black-tipped, tan to strikingly orange- to reddish-brown); indistinctly banded, bushier, and proportionally shorter tail (at least compared to the lowland olingos, Bassaricyon alleni and Bassaricyon medius, Table 5); (externally) more rounded face with a blunter, less tapering muzzle; smaller and more heavily furred external ears, and considerably reduced auditory bullae, with a markedly smaller external auditory meatus; broadened and more elongate postdental palate (‘palatal shelf’), bearing more prominent lateral ‘flanges’ (sometimes developed to the point where it nearly closes off the “palatal notch” sensu Asher 2007); and proportionally much larger first molars (M1and m1), achieved especially by the development of more massive and bulbous principal molar cusps (protocone, paracone, metacone, hypocone) in M1, and for m1 by the widening of the talonid with the expansion in particular of the entoconid and hypoconid. The m1paraconid is reduced relative to other Bassaricyon.
Where Bassaricyon medius and Bassaricyon neblina occur in regional sympatry on the western slopes of the Andes, Bassaricyon neblina is smaller and more richly rufous and/or blackish in coloration, and is distinguished by all of the characteristics noted above. Externally, Bassaricyon neblina can only be confused with the highest elevation populations of Bassaricyon alleni, from forests above 1000 m on the eastern slopes of the Andes (specimens from Pozuzo and Chanchamayo in Peru), which, like Bassaricyon neblina, also have long, black-tipped dorsal pelage (though not so strongly rufous as in Bassaricyon neblina), ears that are especially furry (though not so small as in Bassaricyon neblina), and tails averaging slightly shorter than in lowland populations of Bassaricyon alleni (but not as short as in Bassaricyon neblina). The craniodental characteristics of Bassaricyon neblina (especially of the palate, bullae, and molars) are unmistakable.
The specific epithet neblina (Spanish, “fog or mist”), a noun in apposition, references the cloud forest habitat of the Olinguito.
The recorded distribution of Bassaricyon neblina comprises humid montane rainforests (“cloud forests”) from 1500 m to 2750 m in the Northern Andes, specifically along the western and eastern slopes of the Western Andes of Colombia and Ecuador, and along the western and eastern slopes of the Central Andes of Colombia (Figure 16). Bassaricyon neblina occurs in regional sympatry with Bassaricyon medius medius on the western slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, where we have encountered the two species at localities less than 5 km apart. On the basis of our museum and field research, we document Bassaricyon neblina from 16 localities (representing 19 elevational records) in the Western Andes of Ecuador and the Western and Central Andes of Colombia. All sites are situated between 1500 and 2750 m (mean 2100 m, median 2130 m, ± 280 s.d.) and are associated with humid montane forest (“cloud forest”, Churchill et al. 1995). We used bioclimatic modeling to predict the global geographic distribution of Bassaricyon neblina, which comprises wet, forested ecoregions typical of the habitats where Olinguitos have been recorded (Figures 11–12). As noted above, of the entire land area predicted to be suitable for Olinguito occurrence, 42% has been converted to agriculture or urban areas and 21% comprises other unforested landscapes; only 37% (40,760 km2) of this land area is currently forested.
Geographic variation in the Olinguito is remarkable, reflecting consistent regional differences in color, size, and craniodental features associated with differential distributions in disjunct areas of the Andes. This is unsurprising given that the montane forests of the Central and Western Cordilleras of the Northern Andes are a region where major evolutionary differentiation has unfolded in many endemic Andean vertebrate groups (e.g., Benham 2012, Graham et al. 2010, Voss et al. 2002, Velasco et al. 2010). Below we diagnose four distinctive subspecies of Bassaricyon neblina and describe their geographic ranges as so far understood.
- Helgen, K; Pinto, C; Kays, R; Helgen, L; Tsuchiya, M; Quinn, A; Wilson, D; Maldonado, J; 2013: Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito ZooKeys, 324: 1-83. doi
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- Asher R (2007) A web-database of mammalian morphology and a reanalysis of placental phylogeny. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7: 108. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-7-108
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