European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 669–676 | Cite as

Habitat- and sex-related differences in a small carnivore’s diet in a competitor-free environment

  • Rannveig MagnusdottirEmail author
  • Robert A. Stefansson
  • Menja von Schmalensee
  • David W. Macdonald
  • Pall Hersteinsson
Original Paper


The alien invasive American mink Neovison vison is fully established in the low species richness and competitor-free environment of Iceland. This study documents the diversity as well as seasonal and sexual variation in the diet of mink in Iceland based on stomach contents. Seasonal changes mainly reflected variation in abundance of migratory birds and wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus. In comparison with mink elsewhere in similar habitats, the mink in Iceland consumed more fish and birds and fewer mammals, which is in accordance with local availability. This reinforces evidence of opportunistic foraging. Females generally ate more fish and fewer birds than males and this might be explained by their smaller body size and possible limitation in catching larger birds. Mink in coastal habitats showed greater sexual differences in diet than mink in riparian habitats, probably reflecting less prey diversity in riparian habitats than coastal ones. This study is an input towards explaining the ecological consequences of sexual size dimorphism and supports the hypothesis that generalist species might be successful invaders due to their capability in utilising new and diverse resources. The mink in Iceland can be regarded as a model for a small-bodied semi-aquatic carnivore away from the confounding effects of inter-specific competition.


Mustela vison Feeding habits Diet diversity Niche breadth Sexual size dimorphism 



Sadly Professor Pall Hersteinsson died during the last stages of writing this paper and he is sorely missed. We would like to thank Magnús Jóhannsson and Paul Johnson for advice on statistics, Lauren Harrington for helpful comments provided during the course of this work and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. We also thank Icelandic mink hunters, who provided their catch for research. The project was sponsored by RANNIS, The Icelandic Centre for Research and the Icelandic Ministry for the Environment.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rannveig Magnusdottir
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Robert A. Stefansson
    • 2
  • Menja von Schmalensee
    • 2
  • David W. Macdonald
    • 3
  • Pall Hersteinsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland
  2. 2.West-Iceland Centre of Natural HistoryStykkisholmurIceland
  3. 3.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Zoology DepartmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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