, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 539–555 | Cite as

Effects of halogenated contaminants on reproductive development in wild mink (Neovison vison) from locations in Canada

  • John E. Elliott
  • David Anthony Kirk
  • Pamela A. Martin
  • Laurie K. Wilson
  • Gabriela Kardosi
  • Sandi Lee
  • Tana McDaniel
  • Kimberley D. Hughes
  • Barry D. Smith
  • Abde Miftah Idrissi


The concept of the Anthropocene, that humans are now re-engineering global ecosystems, is in part evidenced by the pervasive pollution by persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Certain POPs are hormone mimics and can disrupt endocrine and hence reproductive processes, shown mainly by laboratory studies with model species. There are, in contrast, fewer confirmations of such disruption from eco-epidemiological studies of wild mammals. Here we used the American mink (Neovison vison) as a sentinel species for such a study. Over the period 1998–2006, 161 mink carcasses were obtained from commercial trappers in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. Mink were aged, sexed, measured, and body condition assessed. Livers were analyzed either individually or pooled for organochlorine (OC) pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and subsets for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). We primarily addressed whether contaminants affected male reproductive development by measuring baculum size and assessing the influences of age and body condition. We also considered the influence of spatial variation on relative exposure and size of baculum. Statistical models separated by age class revealed that significant relationships between baculum length or mass and juvenile mink were mostly positive, whereas for adults and first year mink they were mostly negative. A significant negative relationship for adult mink was determined between DDE and both baculum length and mass. For juvenile mink we found significant positive relationships between ∑PCBs, DDE and ∑PBDEs with baculum length. Our results provide some indication of negative effects of halogenated contaminants on male reproductive development in wild mink, and the most likely candidate chemical is the confirmed anti-androgenic compound, DDE, rather than PCBs or other compounds.


Mink Neovison vison Reproduction Baculum POPs DDE Endocrine disruption 



We thank the many trappers throughout the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario for providing carcasses. Dr. M. McAdie, H. Gill, M. Fronteddu for tissue collection, cleaning and measurements; G. Savard coordinated the tissue preparation of liver samples for chemistry. H. Won, P. Dunlop, B. Wakeford, K. Drouillard and N. Ismali are thanked for their work on the chemical analyses. B. Hunter provided advice on veterinary pathology. M. Anderson provided R statistical advice for multivariate modelling in PERMANOVA+, and R. Brook who assisted with GLMM models.


Funding was provided mainly by the Georgia Basin and Great Lakes Action Plans of Environment and Climate Change Canada to J. Elliott and P. Martin, respectively.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The animals used in this study were obtained solely from trappers licensed under the governments of British Columbia and Ontario, and the principle investigators had the required carcass possession permits from those governments.

Supplementary material

10646_2018_1926_MOESM1_ESM.docx (153 kb)
Supplementary Information(DOCX 152 kb)


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Copyright information

© Crown 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John E. Elliott
    • 1
  • David Anthony Kirk
    • 2
  • Pamela A. Martin
    • 3
  • Laurie K. Wilson
    • 4
  • Gabriela Kardosi
    • 4
  • Sandi Lee
    • 1
  • Tana McDaniel
    • 3
  • Kimberley D. Hughes
    • 5
  • Barry D. Smith
    • 4
  • Abde Miftah Idrissi
    • 6
  1. 1.Environment and Climate Change CanadaEcotoxicology and Wildlife Health DivisionDeltaCanada
  2. 2.Aquila Conservation & Environment ConsultingOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Environment and Climate Change CanadaEcotoxicology and Wildlife Health DivisionBurlingtonCanada
  4. 4.Environment and Climate Change CanadaCanadian Wildlife ServiceDeltaCanada
  5. 5.Broadwing Biological ConsultingPickeringCanada
  6. 6.Environment and Climate Change CanadaEcotoxicology and Wildlife Health DivisionOttawaCanada

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