Mink as a sentinel species in environmental health.

National Wildlife Research Center, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Environmental Research (Impact Factor: 3.95). 02/2007; 103(1):130-44. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2006.04.005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The concept of "sentinel species" is important in the environmental health sciences because sentinel species can provide integrated and relevant information on the types, amounts, availability, and effects of environmental contaminants. Here we discuss the use of mink (Mustela vison) as a sentinel organism by reviewing the pertinent literature from exposure- and effects-based studies. The review focuses on mercury (Hg) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as they are persistent, ubiquitous, and bioaccumulative contaminants of concern to both humans and wildlife. Mink are widely distributed, abundant, and regularly trapped in temperate, aquatic ecosystems, and this makes them an excellent model to address issues in environmental pollution on both temporal and spatial scales. As a high-trophic-level, piscivorous mammal, mink can bioaccumulate appreciable concentrations of certain pollutants and have been shown to be sensitive to their toxic effects. The husbandry and life history of mink are well understood, and this has permitted controlled dosing experiments to be conducted using animals reared in captivity. These manipulative studies have yielded important quantitative information on exposure-response relationships and benchmarks of adverse health effects, and have also allowed the cellular mechanisms underlying toxic effects to be explored. Furthermore, the data accrued from the laboratory continue to validate observations made in the field. Research derived from mink can bridge and integrate multiple disciplines, and the information collected from this species has allowed environmental health scientists to better understand and characterize pollution effects on ecosystems.

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