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The sea mink (Neovison macrodon) is an extinct North American member of the family Mustelidae. It is the only mustelid, and one of only two terrestrial mammal species in the order Carnivora, to become extinct in historic times (the other being the Falkland Islands wolf). The body of the sea mink was significantly longer than that of the closely related American mink (N. vison), and also bulkier, leading to a pelt that was almost twice the size of the other species. The longest specimen recorded was said to be 82.6 cm (32.5 in). The fur of the sea mink was said to be coarser and redder than the American mink's, and produced a distinctive odor.
It was found along the rocky coasts of New England and Atlantic Canada, as far north as Nova Scotia. It was not a truly marine species, being confined to coastal waters. The Labrador duck, with which it coexisted, may have been a prey item.
Due to its highly prized fur, this mink was hunted to extinction. The animal's remains are often found in Native American shell-heaps around the coasts of the islands of Maine. However, the competitive European fur trade led to its extinction.
The last known member of the species was said to have been captured in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1894, although whether this was a specimen of N. macrodon or N. vison is debated. The last substantiated report has led to an estimated extinction date of around 1860, although a specimen was reported as sold to a fur buyer in Maine in 1880.
Although well known to fur hunters, it became extinct before being scientifically described, so little is known about its habits. Existing data suggest it was nocturnal and solitary.
The sea mink is sometimes considered a subspecies of the American mink, in which case the name Neovison vison macrodon is used. However, a recent analysis confirms that it was indeed a separate species.
- Prentiss, Daniel Webster. (1903). Description of an Extinct Mink from the Shellheaps of the Maine Coast.
- Turvey, S. & Helgen, K. (2008). Neovison macrodon. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
- Day, David (1981). The Encyclopedia of Vanished Species. London: Universal Books Ltd. p. 220. ISBN 0-947889-30-2.
- Maas, Peter (2007). "Sea Mink". The Extinction Website. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
- Roland W. Kays, Don E. Wilson (2009). Mammals of North America (Paperback) (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 180. ISBN 9780691140926. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Sealfon RA (2007). "Dental Divergence Supports Species Status of the Extinct Sea Mink (Neovison macrodon)". Journal of Mammalogy 88 (2). pp. 371–383.