Norway, Sweden, Finland, extreme north west Europe.
Alpine, tundra, steppe, temperate grasslands, scrub, open forest, rocks.
Gestation 16- 28 days. Reach sexual maturity early (females: 2-3 weeks old, males: 6-8 weeks old). Very fecund. Breed in summer and winter. Length of breeding season varies. Mated female may fail to conceive or may abort if exposed to a strange male. Litter size may vary from 1-12 or more litters per year. Some females genetically programmed to bear only female offspring.
Active day and night. Construct burrows in summer. Survive in snow by tunneling beneath it. Rely on smell, hearing. Territorial. Calls indicate social status (alarm calls, threat calls, courtship and mating calls). Female gives parental care to young. Solitary. Easily irritated. Spacing behavior- scent marks determine territory. Males form a hierarchy of dominance in which the subordinates may be excluded from breeding. Some males are monogamous. Winter communal nesting to reduce energy requirements.
Herbivorous, diet consisting largely of berries, leaves, grasses, bark, lichens, roots, green part of plants, bulbs, mosses, pine needles. Forage both day and night. Graze and dig for roots.
Social behavior studied by many.
Some harbor vectors of disease, such as plague.
Many live in areas of little agricultural importance to humans. Not pests. Not endangered. Highly varying population density (see "Other Comments"). Clearing of forests by humans has increased habitat.
So-called "Suicidal March to the Sea" about every 3-4 years. Populations "cycle," increasing greatly approximately every 3-4 years. When this happens, lemmings may migrate in large numbers from densely populated areas in the mountains down to birch forests, searching for food. Encountering natural obstacles, including bodies of water, causes panic and a "flight response." This behavior sometimes takes them into the sea, and large numbers may die. So, they may die in this individual quest for food, but they aren't committing suicide for the sake of the rest of the population.
Predators of the lemming include the snowy owl, grouse buzzard, ermine, and arctic fox.
Rachel Berg (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.
MacDonald, Dr. David, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MAMMALS, Facts on File Publications,New York, 1985. (pgs. 650-658).
McGraw-Hill Publishing, GRZIMEK'S ENCYCLOPEDIA: MAMMALS, Volume I, New York 1990. (pgs. 232-238).