How selective breeding has changed the morphology of the American mink (Neovison vison)-a comparative analysis of farm and feral animals.
In this study, we performed a comparative analysis of the morphological traits between feral (n = 43) and farm (n = 200) individuals of the American mink in Poland to address the question of how multigenerational intensive selective breeding has morphologically differentiated these two populations. Nine body measurements and two proportion coefficients were obtained using adult individuals. The significance of differences between population means was assessed using the Wilcoxon test for independent samples, while the Kruskal-Wallis test was used to compare sex-population groups. Spearman's correlation coefficients between measurements were estimated for each population. We also performed Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to identify the variables that were most closely correlated with variation in the trait measurements and to investigate the morphological differences between farm and feral minks. We found that the farm minks exhibited significantly higher mean values for eight out of eleven studied traits. Moreover, significant changes in forelimb length, with no concomitant changes in hindlimb length, were accompanied by differences in body shape: trapezoidal in feral minks and rectangular in farm minks. The PCA suggested an almost complete separation of the two populations and indicated that sexes were quite separate; farm males in particular constitute a wholly discrete cluster. Such a clear differentiation between the two populations and sexes over a period of several decades highlights the intensity of selective breeding in shaping the morphology of these animals.