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On the Cutting Edge: Think Mink!


The American mink is an agile, semiaquatic member of the family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, otters, and ferrets. Mink have a slender body with short legs and a long, thick tail. Their slightly webbed feet make them excellent swimmers. Wild mink are found throughout North America and typically live in wooded areas near streams, rivers, and lakes. They are carnivores and prey upon muskrats, mice, snakes, frogs, and birds. Mink use a foul-smelling secretion from their anal glands for marking boundaries, defense, and courtship.

Great model organisms

Captive mink are raised on commercial ranches primarily for their highly desirable fur. We use these mink to produce our specimens, so there is no impact on wild populations. Commercial production also enables us to supply you with specimens that are very economical to purchase, large in size, and readily available.

These advantages make Carolina mink great model organisms for introducing your students to general mammalian anatomy and physiology. Below are some examples of questions you can use to stimulate an inquiry-based investigation of mammalian anatomy using mink as a model organism.

Getting started: External anatomy

  • Mink are members of class Mammalia and order Carnivora. Examine your specimen carefully. What features are observed that help place it in these taxa?
  • Examine the eyes and note the presence of a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane. This membrane moves laterally to cover the eye. Why might this be useful?
  • Can you observe any other interesting eye features?
  • Describe how the head’s sensory structures provide the mink with the ability to respond to environmental stimuli.

Extend your inquiry

Use our Mink Dissection BioKit® to teach your high school or college students an engaging mammalian anatomy lesson. This complete kit provides materials for a class of 30. Its detailed instructions guide your students through a thorough investigation of the mink, including external anatomy and internal organs and organ systems. The Mink Dissection BioKit® features Carolina’s Perfect Solution® specimens for lifelike look and texture.

Learn more

To learn more about our extensive selection of classroom dissection kits and resources and Carolina’s Perfect Solution® specimens, visit www.carolina.com/preserved, where you can also find secure online shopping, product information, classroom resources, activities, and additional teaching tips.

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