What Are Some Facts About Lemmings?


Quick Answer

Lemmings are small rodents that often live in the tundra and grow white coats during the winter to help them blend in to their surroundings. Despite popular belief, lemmings don't actually commit suicide when food turns scarce; they simply migrate to find better accommodations.

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Full Answer

Lemmings are rodents that grow between 5 and 6 inches long. They have stubby tails, rounded ears and long claws, the latter of which enables them to move with ease on frozen tundra. Although many species live in northern climates such as Alaska, Scandinavia, and parts of Russia and Mongolia, there are southern-dwelling species that thrive in forest and swamp habitats such as the bog lemmings of southern North America and the wood lemming of northern Eurasia.

The Norway lemming, one of the more well-known species, thrives in tundra environments and produces a thick, white coat during the cold winters. These lemmings are also famous for their mass migrations that many people have erroneously called mass suicide. In reality, the lemmings don't commit suicide when food is scarce; they move along on a perilous journey that can result in the deaths of many in the group. Once the migration group reaches water, they swim across it. Some inevitably drown if the swimming distance proves too strenuous for this small animal.

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