Sea minks are a genus that has recently become extinct. They were close relatives of American minks, living on the Atlantic coast.
The last recorded sea mink was taken from an island in the Gulf of Maine in 1880, and a year attributed to its last year of existence. None is known about this species as it was exterminated from its native range before any scientist could have studied it.
It was almost fifty per cent larger than its nearest kin. Their body was flatter than the American mink. Their tail was long and bushy, and they had a thicker reddish-brown hair. The females were shorter than the male ones.
Their life span has not been established. The American Mink, a similar relative, lives in the wild for an average of 6 years, ten years in captivity.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Suborder: Caniformia
- Family: Mustelidae
- Subfamily: Mustelinae
- Genus: Neovison
- Species: Neovison macrodon
The teeth of the sea mink are marginally but significantly larger than the teeth of the American mink.
Because only fragmentary remains have been identified in the sea mink, its appearance and behaviour are not well known.
Its relatives, as well as the accounts of fur traders and Native Americans, give a general idea of the appearance of this species and its ecological functions.
Native Americans in the New England / Atlantic Canadian regions claimed that the marine mink had a fatter body than the American mink.
The sea mink developed a distinctive fishy odour and had a fur that was said to be thicker and redder than that of the American mink.
The naturalist Joseph Banks was thought to have encountered this animal in 1776 in the Strait of Belle Isle, and identified it as slightly larger than a fox, with long legs and a tail that was long and tapered towards the end, similar to a greyhound.
The Mink of the Sea was the biggest of the minks.
Since only fragmentary skeletal remains of the sea mink exist, most of its external measurements are speculative and depend solely on dental measurements in 1929, Ernest Thompson Seton, a wildlife artist, concluded that the probable dimensions of this species were 91.4 centimetres (36 in) from head to tail, with the tail being 25.4 centimetres (10 in) long.
The specimen was identified as having a rough fur that was reddish-tan in colour, although most of it probably faded with age.
It was darkest at the tail and back limbs, with a 5-by-1.5-centimetre (2 by 0.6 in) white patch between the forearms. There were also white patches on the left forearm and the groin.
These minks were broad and heavily built, with a low sagittal crest and short, wide postorbital processes (projections on the front bone behind the eye sockets).
In fact, the most striking characteristic of the skull was its size, in that it was obviously larger than that of other mink species, with a wide rostrum, large openings of the nose, large antorbital fenestrae.
Concluding that the mink was limited to near-shore islands, suggested that the large size was due to insular gigantism.
Because almost all members of the Mustelinae subfamily displayed sexual dimorphism, male sea minks were possibly larger than female sea minks.
Sea mink’s broader carnassial teeth and blunter carnassial blades indicate that hard shells were crushed more frequently than American mink’s teeth.
Lifestyle and habits
There is no information available on the general behaviour of this species. They were considered, however, to be solitary and territorial.
Males were aggressive towards each other, particularly during the mating season or during any territorial dispute. They will mark the territories along a coastline with special scents.
If the trespassing took place, there would be aggressive encounters. Though Minks were likely to have poor underwater eyesight, they would have spent a lot of time in the ocean searching for their preferred prey.
They are Semiaquatic, Altricial animals.
The Sea mink’s exact range is debated, but general agreement is that it occupied an area along North America’s Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia, and possibly including Newfoundland.
They were not a true marine species but were semi-aquatic animals, preferring to live in coastal environments, mainly rocky coasts or offshore islands. This gave them easy access to food and provided shelter from predators.
They were found in North America and in Countries like Canada, and the United States.
Diet and Nutrition
The Sea minks were carnivores (piscivores), they ate fish, seabirds, probably the Labrador duck, as well as seabird eggs, marine invertebrates, and some insects.
As marine mammal species frequently play a large part in their habitats, the marine mink may have been a significant intertidal predator.
It may have had a diet close to that of the American mink, and may have eaten seabirds, seabirds, and hard-bodied marine invertebrates, but in larger proportions.
Fur traders recorded that sea mink dens had two entrances and were made in rocks piled up by waves. Remains of toad sculpins and ocean beams were the most common around their dens, and garden banded snails were also reported to have been part of their diet.
Their seafood-oriented diet may have increased their size. According to fur traders, the sea beetle was nocturnal and lived in caves and rock crevices during the day.
Due to the overlap of American mink and sea mink ranges, it is possible that they hybridized with each other While not a truly marine animal, restricted to coastal waters, the sea mink was exceptionally aquatic relative to the other members of Musteloidea, which was the most aquatic member of the taxon, alongside otters.
Like other minks, individual sea minks may have retained home ranges, and because males were larger and needed more food, males may have had larger territorial claims.
Similarly, their larger size may have allowed males to hunt larger prey than females, and they may have had to protect females during the mating seasons.
Like other weasels, the sea mink was possibly polygynandrous, with both sexes mating several individuals.
Exploitation and extinction
Due to its large scale, the sea mink was hunted by fur traders; this made it more attractive than other mink species further inland.
Unregulated fur trade ultimately led to its disappearance, which is believed to have happened between 1860 and 1920.
Sea mink was seldom seen after 1860. The last two reported kills of sea mink were made in Maine in 1880 near Jonesport, Maine, and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, in 1894, although the 1894 kills are speculated to be big American minks.
Fur traders made traps to capture sea minks and often hunted them with dogs, although they were rarely trapped. If a sea mink had escaped into a small hole on the rocky ledges, it had been dug out by hunters using shovels and crowbars.
If it was out of the range of the hunters, it was fired and then recovered using an iron rod with a screw on the far end. If it had been covered, it had been smoked out and suffocated.
The night-time actions of the minks may have been triggered by pressure from fur traders who hunted them in the daylight.
Since the remains of braincases found in shell middens are broken, and many of the bones found show cut marks, it is believed that Sea mink were hunted by Native Americans for food, and probably for trade and ceremonial purposes.
One study of the remains in shell middens in Penobscot Bay recorded that sea mink craniums were intact, more so than other fountain species.