People love minks. They purr when they are happy. They look soft and cuddly. They are small, cute-looking, and have long thin bodies, short legs, pointed snouts, and claws.
Because they resemble meerkats and prairie dogs, there is some confusion as to which species of animals minks belong to.
Some seem to wonder if minks are marsupials, while others consider minks to be rodents. Well, are minks rodents?
In this post, we’ll address some widespread misconceptions and break down the differences between these two animal groups.
Are Minks Rodents?
No, minks are not rodents, they do not belong to the rodent family.
Despite sharing some similarities with rodents, minks belong to the family Mustelidae, also known as the weasel family. This family includes otters, weasels, badgers, ferrets, martens, and wolverines, among others.
Minks are carnivorous mammals and one of over 280 species of the order Carnivora, the fifth-largest order of mammals.
Rodents, on the other hand, belong to a completely different order called Rodentia. Minks are not classified as rodents.
Let’s explain this more simply and in detail.
Minks Are Taxonomically Different From Rodents
In biology, there are millions of different plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, etc. To understand them better, scientists organized all of these organisms into different groups called taxa.
Remember how a grocery store is organized?
One huge building is divided into departments such as fruit, dairy, meats, cosmetics, etc.
Then, each department is further divided into aisles, every aisle into categories and brands, and then finally we get to the individual products. This organization from larger to smaller, more specific categories, is called a taxonomic hierarchical system in biology.
At the top, the largest category is called domain. This is our grocery store building.
Within each domain, there is a second category called a kingdom. This is our store department.
After kingdoms, the subsequent smaller categories are phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.
The more categories two animals share in common, the more closely they are related.
Minks and rodents belong to the same kingdom, Animalia, or animals. They are both members of the same phylum, Chordata, and of the same class, Mammalia, or mammals.
This is where the relationship between these animals stops; rodents are members of the order Rodentia, while minks are members of the order Carnivora.
If we go even further, the differences between the two increase.
Minks belong to the Mustelidae family, while rodents can belong to one of 30 different rodent families.
This means that minks are also not members of the rodent family.
Mustelids are some of the oldest carnivorous animals that ever existed. They first appeared in evolutionary history some 40 million years ago. Most mustelids have long bodies, short legs, and thick fur – the largest of all mustelids is the sea otter which can reach almost 100 pounds.
There are around 70 species of mustelids in existence today.
What Are Rodents?
Rodents are small, gnawing animals that have no canine teeth and whose incisors continuously grow. Specifically, they have two pairs of sharp incisor teeth, one pair in the lower and another in the upper jaw.
Those long teeth help rodents gnaw food, excavate burrows, and defend themselves.
The rodent family is the largest order of animals today – scientists estimate that almost half of all mammal species are rodents. They are native to all major landmasses except for New Zealand, Antarctica, and several oceanic islands, but people have been slowly introducing them there as well.
They are a very adaptable and widespread group of animals; rodents can be found in almost every terrestrial habitat, including human-made environments.
Examples of rodents include mice, rats, squirrels, prairie dogs, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, and hamsters. The largest species of rodents is the capybara, which can weigh as much as 146 pounds.
Why Are Minks Not Rodents?
Minks are not rodents because they belong to a different mammal order.
Minks are carnivorous mammals that feed on rodents, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, and fish.
Because of their unique characteristics, they belong to the Carnivora order together with cats, dogs, hyenas, bears, raccoons, and many others.
Minks have 4 prominent canine teeth to help in the killing of prey species. Their canines are long, conical, recurved, and resemble tusks or fangs.
Unlike minks, most rodents are herbivores and feed on plants. They also have a single pair of continuously growing incisor teeth in each of the upper and lower jaws. And unlike rodents, minks have canine teeth.
Minks actually hunt down and eat rodents such as muskrats, chipmunks, voles, and mice.
What Are Minks?
Minks are small, semiaquatic animals that are similar to stoats (short-tailed weasels).
And as we mentioned before, minks are part of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, otters, and ferrets. These animals look very much alike, and no wonder, since they are very closely related animals.
Minks can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia, close to rivers and other wetland habitats, where they make their burrows on riverside banks.
Since they spend so much time around water, minks have very thick coats to keep them warm.
Unfortunately for these cute animals, people value their fur a lot and have been farming them to make expensive coats from their pelt.
Minks are excellent diggers, swimmers, and climbers – they can swim up to 100 feet underwater and jump from tree to tree. When they are happy, minks will purr.
They are very territorial animals and if they see another male mink, they will viciously attack it. Male minks seem to be less aggressive towards females that enter their territories.
There are 2 species of minks today: the American and the European mink.
The European mink is considered endangered and became extinct in many countries during the last two centuries. The main causes of extinction are habitat loss, human hunting, and the threat from the American mink.
One study from 2012 tracked 27 European minks that were released into the wild in North Spain between 2008 and 2010. After 6 months of tracking the minks, the scientists discovered that almost 30% of them were killed by American minks.
Some people keep minks as pets since they resemble weasels a lot, but due to their wild nature and specific needs, having one as a pet can prove to be a challenge.
And if you were wondering if cats are marsupials, check out this popular article.
In conclusion, minks are neither rodents nor marsupials. Minks are animals that belong to the order of placental mammals called Carnivora.
Carnivores can be divided into two groups: the cat-like Feliformia, and the dog-like Caniformia.
The main difference between the two is the structure of their ear bones and some skull features.
The feliforms include cats, hyenas, mongooses, and civets. This means that in a way, minks are related to cats, both domestic and wild ones (tigers, lions, leopards, etc.)
The caniforms include dogs, wolves, foxes, bears, raccoons, weasels, and seals. Minks are members of the caniforms.
The main difference between minks and rodents is that minks are carnivorous and do not have as pronounced incisor teeth as rodents do. Most rodents are herbivores and lack the canine teeth of minks.
Rodents are the largest order of small mammals, and one of the most common of all animal types.
If you were pondering on the question “are minks rodents”, we hope this article removed all doubts.
And if you enjoyed it, here’s a recommendation on another very popular read: Are Lemurs Marsupials Or Rodents?