Neovison macrodon


Kingdom Animalia

Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Mustelidae
Subfamily Mustelinae
Authority (Prentiss, 1903)
English Name Sea Mink
Chinese Name 海貂
Dutch Name Zeenerts, Zeemink
French Name Vison de Mer, Vison des Mers, Vison Marin, Marte de Mer
German Name Seenerz, Seemink
Italian Name Visone Marino, Visone di Mare
Japanese Name ウミベミンク
Portuguese Name Vison-marinho
Spanish Name Visón Marino

Lutreola macrodon Prentiss, 1903; Mustela macrodon (Prentiss, 1903); Lutreola vison antiquus Loomis, 1911; Mustela vison macrodon (Prentiss, 1903); Neovison vison macrodon (Prentiss, 1903)


Some scientists consider this animal to be conspecific with the American Mink Neovison vison, previously Mustela vison (Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group 2002). However metric comparisons between Neovison macrodon and five subspecies of Neovison vison, using skull, mandible, humerus, radius, femur, and tibia skeletal elements, show that Neovison macrodon is larger in overall size and robustness and is proportionately larger in the dental region (Mead et al. 2000; Sealfon 2007).


The Sea Mink was hunted to extinction even before it was taxonomically described or scientifically studied. Accounts by locals tell us that the Sea Mink has been a large, reddish-furred mink with a distinctive odour, a slightly bushy tail, and a fatter body than that of the American mink (Canadian Wildlife Service 2006; Sealfon 2007). In 1867, a J.B. Gilpin recorded a Sea Mink in Nova Scotia measuring an overall length of 82,6 cm (32,5 in) (Day 1981).



Not much is known about the lifestyle of the Sea Mink. Existing information suggests that they were nocturnal and solitary, and spent most of their time at sea. (Canadian Wildlife Service 2006)

Range & Habitat

The Sea Mink occurred in coastal eastern North America, from Massachusetts to the Maritime Provinces and possibly Newfoundland (NatureServe 2006). 

This animal preferred coastal habitats, particularly rocky coasts and offshore islands (Canadian Wildlife Service 2006).

Image: a range map showing the possible previous distribution of the Sea Mink in North America (in red). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

Food The Sea Mink most likely consumed a greater proportion of seabirds, seabird eggs, and hard-bodied marine invertebrates than the American Mink (Sealfon 2007).
History & Population

The Sea Mink is known from prehistoric and historic Native American shell middens dating less than 5100 years old along coastal islands of the Gulf of Maine, northeastern North America. (Mead et al. 2000) In 1903, Manly Hardy wrote that his family, who were fur-buyers in Maine, recognised this very large mink as a distinct form which was commonly available until 1860 (Hardy 1903; Day 1981). Mead et al. (2000) records an estimated extinction date of 1860. Day (1981) stated that the last known specimen was taken in 1880 on an island in the Gulf of Maine. This animal measured over 66 cm (22 in) without the tail and was sold to a fur-buyer in Jonesport, Maine (Day 1981). The Sea Mink was thought to have survived until about 1894 in New Brunswick, Canada (Campbell 1988, Nowak 1999), where the last known specimen was taken at Campobello Island (Canadian Wildlife Service 2006). However, it is uncertain whether this specimens belonged to this species or to the American Mink, Neovison vison (Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group 2002).

Extinction Causes

Presumably the Native Americans of the region hunted the Sea Mink for its pelt, which may have contributed to its decline (Day 1981). However, the final blow that led to the extinction of the Sea Mink was caused by overhunting for the highly competitive European fur trade (Day, 1981; Canadian Wildlife Service 2006).

Museum Specimens Skeletal and skin specimens were not collected by zoologists (Sealfon 2007). Sea Mink remains, primarily cranial, have been excavated from Native American shell middens, although no collector is known to have preserved a complete specimen (Dunstone 1993). Specimens can be found in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, New York (AMNH); the Frick Collection of the American Museum of Natural History, New York (F:AM); and the Maine State Museum, Augusta (MSM). (Sealfon 2007)

The closest living relative of the Sea Mink is the American Mink (Neovison vison, previously Mustela vison). Some regard them even conspecific, although recent research shows that this is not the case (Mead et al. 2000; Sealfon 2007). 

Photo: American Mink in Isle Royale National Park (Michigan, USA). This image contains material based on a work of a National Park Service employee, created during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, such work is in the public domain.

The American Mink originally occurred in North America from Alaska and Canada through all of the USA except the southwestern deserts. The American Mink has been introduced in Iceland, north central Europe, Great Britain, Spain and Siberia (Russian Federation), and its range in Europe is rapidly increasing ((Mustelid Specialist Group 1996)). The introductions were the result of escapes mostly from fur farms. Now the American Mink is causing the decline of the European Mink (Mustela lutreola) and water vole (Arvicola amphibius) and is now considered a pest species in most of Europe. 


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Mustela macrodon

Sea Mink - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Environment Canada - Species at Risk - Sea Mink



(Complete website)

Campbell, R.R. 1988. Status of the sea mink, Mustela macrodon, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 102: 304-306.

Canadian Wildlife Service. 2006. Sea Mink. Environment Canada - Species at Risk. <>. Downloaded on 19 May 2007.

Day, D., 1981, The Doomsday Book of Animals, Ebury Press, London. ISBN 0 85223 183 0.

Dunstone, N. 1993. The mink. T & AD Poyser Natural History, London, United Kingdom.

Hardy, M. 1903. The extinct mink from the Maine shell heaps. Forest and Stream 61:125.

Loomis, F. B. 1911. A new mink from the shell heaps of Maine. American Journal of Science 31:227–228.

Mead, J.I., Speiss, A.E., and Sobolik, K.D. 2000. Skeleton of extinct North American sea mink (Mustela macrodon). Quaternary Research 53:247–262.

Mustelid Specialist Group 1996. Mustela vison. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 19 May 2007.

Mustelid, Viverrid & Procyonid Specialist Group 2002. Mustela macrodon. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 19 May 2007.

NatureServe. 2006. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 6.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: May 19, 2007 ).

Nowak, R.M. (ed.) 1999. Walkers Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Prentiss, D. W. 1903. Description of an extinct mink from the shellheaps of the Maine coast. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 26:887–888.

Sealfon, R.A. 2007. Dental divergence supports species status of the extinct sea mink (Carnivora: Mustelidae: Neovison macrodon). Journal of Mammalogy, 88(2):371–383.

Last updated: 8th June 2007.

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