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Evolutionary Ecology

The Evolutionary Ecology by Wikipédia

European mink
 Conservation Plan for the European mink

Mustela lutreola western populations 

© Thierry Lodé  
(Photos : Gilles Guiral)

The European mink Mustela lutreola is, with the Pardel Lynx and the Monk seal, one the most endangered species of palearctic mammals


Carnivore Mustelidae, Mustela lutreola is a nocturnal predator and frequents water courses and marshes. First mentions of the species dated from the XVIIIème century (Leche 1759) and the mink was documented in France only from the beginning of the XIXème century (Lesson 1827). 

   The historical distribution of the European Mink spreads from the basin of the Petchora river to the east until Pyrenees and to the Caucase to the south. But, since the beginning of the century, the species has disappeared from central Europe entailing a division in two western and oriental units. The decline has again continued during the last decades provoking the subdivision of oriental populations, Caucasian, Roman, Ukrainian, Belarus and Russian (Maran & Hentonen 1995).

   Similarly, the western population was today restricted to the south west of France and to the north of Spain (Maizeret et al. 1998, Ruiz-Olmo & Palazon 1996). The last mentions of Mustela lutreola in Brittany ascends to 1992 (Lodé 1992) and a male individual has again been discovered in Vendée during the Summer 1997 (Lodé 1998).

  Many causes have been evoked to account for this considerable decline, chiefly modifications of habitats and pollution (Maran & Hentonen 1995). But the persecution impact on populations is clearly manifest. The Mink has been continually trapped in many countries and numerous accidental captures have seriously compromised the reestablishment of populations. Many confusions were made with the European polecat Mustela putorius, mainly the dark phenotype or with young individuals (Lodé 1994, 1995) .


Dark phenotype in road killed polecat

Furthermore, the presence in the wild of the American Mink M. vison escaped from fur farm induced both an increase of the trapping and unfavourable competition, the American Mink exploiting a very similar ecological niche.

   Now Mustela lutreola has disappeared from the North Western France, including areas never been occupied by American mink . (Lodé et al. 2001, Lodé et al. 2001, Lodé 2002)

Pattern of Decline in NW France (Lodé 2001)

In western France, European mink and polecat could inhabit on the same forest brooks. Furthermore, polecat was found to hybridize with European mink and they have fertile pups (Lode et al. 2005) revealing the interfertilty among the syngameon.

Preserving genetic diversity is a fundamental issue for conservation biology. The western population of European mink has recently suffered a bottleneck and proportion of polymorphic loci only reached 10.5% (p<0.01 level). Observed heterozygosity averaged Ho = 0.020 and expected heterozygosity HE = 0.038 (Lodé 1999, Lodé & Peltier 2005, Peltier & Lodé 2003) revealing that reproductive exchanges were affected and showing an alteration of the genetic diversity, reducing recovery potentialities.

Since 1992, an international conservation program, initiate by many partners (Ministry of the Environment, French Mammal Society, GREGE, ONC, University of Barcelonne and Government of Catalonia), has been performed. The animal ecology laboratory and the Association Erminea ( Association for Mammals and Amphibians Study ) participate.

The objective is to define priorities for a conservation plan by characterizing the bioecology of the species, analyzing causes of the decline, and assessing the genetic variability of western populations.



 LODÉ T. 2006. Can low densities of carnivores result in genetic depletion ? An investigation within European polecat populations. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetic 123: 122-158

LODE T., PEREBOOM V. & BERZINS R. 2003. Implications of an individualistic lifestyle for species conservation: lessons from jealous beasts. C.R. Biologies, 326: S30-S36,

LODÉ T. & LE JACQUES D. 2001 - Heterozygosity and bottleneck in the endangered European western population of the European mink Mustela lutreola. Säugetierkundliche informationen Suppl. Juin.

LODÉ T . 2006. Can low densities of carnivores result in genetic depletion ? An investigation within European polecat populations. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetic 123: 122-158

LODÉ T., GUIRAL G. & PELTIER D. 2005. European mink-polecat hybridization events: hazards from natural process ? Journal of Heredity 96 (2): 1-8

LODÉ T. & PELTIER D. 2005. Genetic neighbourhood and effective population size in the endangered European mink Mustela lutreola Biodiversity & Conservation 14:251-259

CHAPUT-BARDY A, SECONDI J & LODE T 2004 Cross-species amplification microsatellites in mustelid conservation : an application to European mink.22nd International Mustelid colloquium, Dassel (Germany)

PELTIER D. & LODÉ T. 2003. Molecular survey of genetic diversity in endangered European mink Mustela lutreola. C.R. Biologies, 326: 49-53

LODÉ T., PEREBOOM V. & BERZINS R. 2003. Implications of an individualistic lifestyle for species conservation: lessons from jealous beasts. C.R. Biologies, 326: S30-S36, (anciennement C.R.Acad, Sc,).

BERZINS R., HELDER R. & LODÉ T. 2002. The influence of odour familiarity on the female polecat (Mustela putorius) mate choice. Adv Ethol, Suppl to Ethology 23:37

BERZINS R & LODE T 2003. The European polecat: a good model for the rescue of the European mink ? C.R. Biologies 326: 224-225.

LODÉ T. 2002. Endangered species as indicator of freshwater quality: fractal diagnosis using fragmentation within European mink population. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 155 : 163-176.

LODÉ T., CORMIER JP & LE JACQUES D. 2002. Decline in endangered species and anthropic pressures: the case of European mink Mustela lutreola western population. The European Mink second workshop, International Symposium Central Forest State Natural Biosphere Reserve, Nelidovo, Russia.

LODÉ T 2002 – Sympatric divergence : the dark side of carnivores. Conservation and Evolution. International Workshop, Washington DC, USA, 24-30 Octobre .

LODE T., PAGANO A., BERZINS R. & PEREBOOM V. 2002 - Biological conservation of the European mink western population, challenge facing an uncertain futureSociety for Conservation Biology, 16th Annual Meeting , Canterbury, 14-19 July 2002, United Kingdom.

LODÉ T. 2001. Genetic divergence without spatial isolation in polecat Mustela putorius populations. Journal of Evolutionary Biology.14 : 228-236

LODÉ T., CORMIER JP & LE JACQUES D. 2001. Decline in endangered species as an indication of anthropic pressures: the case of European mink Mustela lutreola western population. Environnemental Management 28 : 727-735

LODE T. 2001. Patterns of European Mink Mustela lutreola decline in the North Western France. 20Th Mustelid Colloquium 13-16 Sept 2001 Papenburg-Emsland, Germany

BERZINS R., GUIRAL G, & LODÉ T 2001 – Comparison of biological and behavioral traits in the European mink Mustela lutreola and the European polecat M putorius. XXth Mustelid Colloquium, Osnabrück-Papenburg, 13-16 Sept 2001 Allemagne.

LODÉ T. 1999 - Genetic bottleneck in the threatened western population of European mink Mustela lutreola. Italian Journal of Zoology 66: 351-353

LODÉ T. 1999 - Comparative measurements of terrestrial and aquatic locomotion in Mustela lutreola and M. putorius. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde (Mammal Biol) 64 : 110-115.

LODÉ T 1999 - La conservation génétique des Mustelidae. Séminaire de l'ARBRE, Rennes

Maizeret, C., Migot, P., Galineau, H., Grisser, P. and Lodé, T.  (1998) Répartition et habitat du Vison  d'Europe Mustela lutreola en France.  Arvicola, 10,

LODÉ T (1995) Convergences morphologiques du Putois Mustela putorius et du Vison américain Mustela vison avec le Vison d'Europe M. lutreola. Game Wildlife, 12, 147-158.

LODÉ T (1994) The polymorphism of The European polecat Mustela putorius in France. Small Carn Cons.,11 :10 .

LODÉ T. 1994 - Specific determination between Mustela lutreola, M. vison et M. putorius. IIIème Réunion internationale Vison d'Europe. Bayonne. 1994.

LODÉ T (1992) Typologie d'un milieu fréquenté par le Vison d'Europe Mustela lutreola L. 1751. Bull. Soc. Sc. Nat. Ouest France, 14, 73-80.

Chanudet, F. and Saint-Girons, M. C. (1981) Répartition du Vison européen (Mustela lutreola) dans le sud  ouest de la France. Ann. Soc. Sc. Nat. Charente-Maritime, 6, 851-858.
Gourdon M. (1910) Sur la capture de trois Visons en Mayenne.
Bull. Soc. Sc. Nat. Ouest France, 10, 12-13.
Lopez-Martin, J. M., Ruiz-Olmo, J. and Palazon S. (1994). Organochlorine Residue Levels in the European Mink (Mustela lutreola) in Northern Spain. Ambio, 23, 294-295.

  Maran T. (1992) The European mink, Mustela lutreola, in protected areas in the former Soviet Union. Small Carnivore Conservation, 7, 10-12.

Maran, T. and Henttonen, H. (1995) Why is the European mink (Mustela lutreola) disappearing ? A review of  the process and hypotheses.  Ann. Zool. Fenn., 32, 47-54.

 Ondarra, P. R. (1955) Hallazgo, en Guipuzcoa, de un mamifero no citado en la "Fauna Iberica" de Cabrera, el Putorius lutreola. Munibe, 7, 201-207.

 Romanowski, J., Kaszuba, S. and Kozniewski, P. (1984) Nowe dane o wystepowanuu morek (Mammalia, Mustelidae) w Polsce. Przeglad Zool., 28, 221-223.

 Rozhnov, V. V. (1993) Extinction of the European mink: ecological catastrophe or natural process. Lutreola, 1, 10-16.

Ruiz-Olmo, J. and Palazon, S. (1996) Situation actuelle du vison d'Europe en Espagne et perspectives de recherche. Cahiers Ethol,. 15, 425-434.

Saint-Girons, M. C. (1991) Le Vison sauvage Mustela lutreola en Europe. Coll. Sauvegarde de la Nature, n&deg; 54, European Council, Bruxelles.

Tumanov, I. L. and Zvejev, E. L. (1986) [Present distribution and number of the European mink Mustela lutreola in the U.S.S.R.] (in russian). Zool. Zhur., 65, 426-435.

Westman, K. (1968) On the occurrence of American and European mink in Finland. Suom. Riista, 20, 50-51.

Youngman, P. M. (1982) Distribution and the systematics of the European mink Mustela lutreola Linnaeus 1761. Acta Zool. Fenn., 166, 1-48.




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