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Bushy-tailed Olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii)

Posted on Mar 14, 2011 by in Carnivores | 2 comments

Bassaricyon gabbii

Number 0363

Sadly, my long mammal-posting streak was broken yesterday…because I jumped off a rock and broke my calcaneus, the big bone at the bottom of the heel. It hurts like mad! But while I recuperate, I will try to keep up the mammaling.

Today’s mammal is the bushy-tailed olingo, which lives in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Colombia. It is a procyonid, putting it in the same family as the raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, and their friends. The bushy-tailed olingo’s scientific name, Bassaricyon gabbii, comes from William Gabb (1839–1878), a paleontologist and geologist who collected natural history specimens in Central America for the Smithsonian.

The olingos caught my eye because of a characteristic Ivan T. Sanderson note on the genus in Living Mammals of the World:

“Of all idiotic scientific names for an animal this takes the cake: it means literally the ‘Fox-dog’ or ‘Dog-dog’ as bassara is an ancient Thracian word for dogs and foxes, and kyon meant a dog in classical Greek. The animal in question has caused a great deal of confusion in scientific records, completely bamboozles the nonspecialist, is usually overlooked, is seldom represented in museum collections, and yet appears to be fairly common.”

2 Comments

  1. I tend to call any bird smaller than my fist a “finch” specifically because my mother, a long-time Audubon fan, gets this amazing blood-pressure rise in response, and I enjoy basking in the warmth of her rage. I wonder if Mr. Gabb had a similar social connection.

    You did a great job capturing the olingo’s surly expression.

  2. Alexandra, that’s really funny. Does everyone like annoying their mom like that? I know I do. But maybe the feeling’s mutual because when I was lying in the bottom of an arroyo with a broken foot on Sunday, she was wandering around helpfully saying things like, “I think I hear coyotes.” (Just kidding Mom—I mean, you were, but you were also helpful and I’m glad you were there and I ain’t afraid of no coyotes.) But I didn’t write this post very clearly—Gabb didn’t name the Bassaricyon genus—that was somebody named Allen, probably Joel Asaph Allen, the most likely candidate I find in Wikipedia. So Gabb’s not responsible for the dog-dog thing. Only the Gabbii comes from him.

    Isn’t Ivan T. Anderson great? He’s so impassioned and cantankerous. I love him.

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