Neovison macrodonsea mink

Geographic Range

Although sea mink are now extinct, it once ranged from Casco Bay, Maine in the south to as far north as New Brunswick, Canada. (Manville, 1966; Waters and Ray, 1961)


Skeletal remains of sea mink have been found along the coastal shore of northeastern United States, and probable dens have been found in rocky areas along the north Atlantic ocean front. These findings suggest this species, now extinct, occupied coastal regions. (Manville, 1942; Manville, 1966; Waters and Ray, 1961)

  • Average elevation
    0 m
    0.00 ft

Physical Description

Sea mink were on average 914 mm long, almost twice as long as their close relative Neovison vison, the American mink, which are 580 to 700 mm long. Sea mink tails were on average 254 mm long and the hind foot was on average 88 mm long. When extant, sea mink were commonly mistaken for American mink. However, sea mink remains are distinguishable from those of American mink by a number of different morphometrics including palate length (> 36 mm), length of first molar (> 4.6 mm), width of first molar (> 7.6 mm), humerus length (> 55 mm), and femur length (> 58 mm). Average weight of sea mink is unknown, however male American mink weigh between 0.90 kg to 1.60 kg, and females weigh between 0.70 kg to 1.10 kg. Sea mink skulls were significantly larger than those of American mink, and the carnassials of sea mink were wider and shorter than those of American mink. Sea mink had a dental formula of 3/3, 1/1, 3/3, 1/2 = 34. (Black, et al., 1998; Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Manville, 1966; Mead, et al., 2000; Sealfon, 2007)

Sea mink had coarse, reddish dark brown fur. It is unknown whether summer and winter pelages differed, however, closely related species, such as American mink, have winter coats that are much thicker and heaver than their summer coat. Sexual dimorphism, common in nearly all Mustelinae, was also present in sea mink as males were larger than females. (Allen, 1941; Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Harris and Yalden, 2008; Mead, et al., 2000)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger


There is no information available regarding the mating system of Neovison macrodon. Closely related species, such as N. vison, are polygynandrous. Males begin searching for mates in early spring and compete intensely for access to females, which commonly accept multiple mates. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Harris and Yalden, 2008)

There is no information available regarding the reproductive behavior of Neovison macrodon. The closely related species N. vison mates from February to April. Male-female pairs mate vigorously for an average of 64 minutes. Females exhibit superfecundation (i.e., single litters have more than one father), superfoetation (i.e., single litters include embryos of different ages) and are known to delay implantation. An average litter consists of 4 to 6 kits with gestation lasting between 39 to 76 days. Weaning occurs between 5 to 6 weeks, and American mink are sexually mature at 10 months. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Corbet and Harris, 1991; Harris and Yalden, 2008; Kurta, 1995; Macdonald and Harrington, 2003; Sundqvist, et al., 1989)

There is no information available regarding parental care in Neovison macrodon. The closely related species N. vison has altrical young. Neovison vison females provide food and protection for the young, which are weaned around 5 to 6 weeks after birth. Neovison vison juveniles disperse around 12 weeks of age. (Harris and Yalden, 2008; Kurta, 1995)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


The average lifespan of Neovison macrodon is not known. The closely related Neovison vison has an average lifespan of 6 years in the wild and 10 years in captivity. (Harris and Yalden, 2008; Kurta, 1995)


There is no information available regarding the general behavior of Neovison macrodon. The closely related species N. vison is nocturnal and solitary, only meeting with conspecifics during mating season. It patrols its home range and uses threatening displays during conspecific interactions, including back-arching, piloerection of the tail, tail lashing, stamping and scraping the feet, threat postures, and mouth displays. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Corbet and Harris, 1991)

  • Key Behaviors
  • terricolous
  • motile

Home Range

The home range of Neovison macrodon is not known. The closely related species N. vison has an average home range of 3 km. Adult male N. vison range between 1,800 m to 5,000 m, juvenile males range between 1,050 m to 1,230 m, and adult females range between 1,000 m to 2,800 m. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Harris and Yalden, 2008)

Communication and Perception

There is no information available regarding communication and perception in Neovison macrodon. The closely related species N. vison relies heavily on vision for hunting. Anal scent glands are used to mark territories and are used in conspecific aggression. Vocalizations are also used for communication. (Chapman and Feldhamer, 1982; Corbet and Harris, 1991; Harris and Yalden, 2008; Larivière, 1999)

Food Habits

Sea mink had blunter and wider teeth than do American mink, which is commonly associated with consuming hard-bodied aquatic prey. Evidence of fish remains have been reported in probable den sites, suggesting sea mink mainly fed on aquatic species. Other information on the food habits of sea mink is not available. The closely related species Neovison vison has a seasonal diet that changes throughout the year. (Kurta, 1995; Manville, 1966; Sealfon, 2007)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans


Aside from humans, major predators of Neovison macrodon are unknown.

Ecosystem Roles

No information on the ecosystem roles of Neovison macrodon is available, other than that they were piscivores that occupied coastal regions. The closely related species N. vison is known to carry ticks and fleas, which can be reservoirs for disease. (Corbet and Harris, 1991)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Neovison macrodon were coveted for their fur and possibly meat. Bones have been found at a ceremonial burial site, suggesting N. macrodon may have been consumed during spiritual events. (Black, et al., 1998; Manville, 1942; Waters and Mack, 1962)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There were no known adverse effects of Neovison macrodon on humans.

Conservation Status

Sea mink, which were valued for their soft coats, were hunted into extinction during the late 1800s to early 1900s. (Manville, 1966; Turvey and Helgen, 2010)

Other Comments

It has been debated whether Neovison macrodon was a distinct species, rather than a subspecies of N. vison. Neovison macrodon, however, had a larger skull, mandible, humerus, radius, femur, and tibia, and as well as distinctive dental characteristics. (Mead, et al., 2000; Sealfon, 2007)


Peter Feng (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


an animal that mainly eats fish


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


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Sealfon, R. 2007. Dental divergence supports species status of the extinct sea mink (Carnivora : Mustelidae : Neovison macrodon). Journal of Mammalogy, 88/2: 371-383. Accessed March 14, 2011 at

Sundqvist, C., A. Amador, A. Bartke. 1989. Reproduction and fertility in the mink (Mustela vison). Journals of Reproduction & Fertility, 85: 413-441. Accessed April 06, 2011 at

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Waters, J., C. Mack. 1962. Second Find of Sea Mink in Southeastern Massachusetts. Journal of Mammalogy, 43/3: 429-430. Accessed April 01, 2011 at

Waters, J., C. Ray. 1961. Former Range of the Sea Mink. Journal of Mammalogy, 42/3: 380-383. Accessed March 14, 2011 at