Habitat- and sex-related differences in a small carnivore's diet in a competitor-free environment
Magnusdottir R., Stefansson RA., von Schmalensee M., Macdonald DW., Hersteinsson P.
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. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.