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Conserving our wildlife heritage: comparative biomechanics of feeding in native and introduced minks

Project description

Protecting European minks against an alien invader

The European mink is considered the most endangered mammal in Europe. Once widespread all over Europe, the mink population has reduced considerably due to over-hunting and loss of natural habitats. Another factor contributing to its decline is the introduction of an invasive species – the domestic American mink. Larger and less habitat-restricted, the American mink also appears to have access to a wider variety of food items. The EU-funded MINKS project will compare the jaws of both types of mink species to assess their range of foods and extent of dietary competition. The findings will assist in the formulation of conservation strategies.


The European mink (Mustela lutreola) is the second most threatened mammal in Europe. In the last decade, its population has been halved by habitat degradation and introduction of American Mink (Neovison vison) populations. This invasive species is larger and less habitat-restricted than the European mink. It is unclear whether dietary overlap occurs between these mink species, although skull morphology would suggest that the American mink has access to a wider variety of food items.
MINKS aims to compare the mechanical performance of the jaws in feeding to assess the range of potential foods and extent of dietary competition between both mink species. To accomplish this, MINKS will combine computer modelling techniques (iodine-enhanced microCT scans, finite element analysis (FEA)) with 3D geometric morphometric methods (3DGM) for statistical shape analysis. Differences in skull morphology between both mink species will be assessed, and the skull anatomy of each species will be 3D modelled and subjected to FEA, which will then be compared using 3DGM.
MINKS will pair the morphological and zoological expertise of the experienced researcher (ER) with the state-of-the-art facilities for morphometrics and virtual simulation at the Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences (CAHS), University of York (UK). This will provide the ER with the opportunity to restart his academic career and develop into an independent researcher. MINKS represents the first 3D study on muscular architecture in carnivorans, and also the first application of CAHS’ whole-system-function methodology to the study of carnivoran anatomy. The results of this research will be applied to develop innovative target-specific solutions that allow controlling American mink populations, particularly in areas where the food items available increase the survivability of the European mink. These findings will be disseminated to mink conservation projects to inform conservation strategies.


Net EU contribution
€ 319 400,64
YO10 5DD York north yorkshire
United Kingdom

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Yorkshire and the Humber North Yorkshire York
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00