Arctic lemming

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Arctic lemming
Dicrostonyx torquatus.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Subfamily: Arvicolinae
Genus: Dicrostonyx
D. torquatus
Binomial name
Dicrostonyx torquatus
(Pallas, 1778)

The Arctic lemming (Dicrostonyx torquatus) is a species of rodents in the family Cricetidae.

Although generally classified as a "least concern" species, the Novaya Zemlya subspecies (Dicrostonyx torquatus ungulatus) is considered a vulnerable species under Russian nature conservation legislation (included in Red Book of Russian Federation since 1998).[1]


It is found only in the Arctic biomes in the Russian Federation, and it is the commonest mammal on Severnaya Zemlya.[2] Specimens were once found in England, but they are now extirpated. For the most part, lemmings of the genus Lemmus can coexist with those of genus Dicrostonyx.[3] Arctic lemmings migrate when population density becomes too great, and they resort to swimming in search of a new habitat.[4] The disappearance of lemmings and the lemming cycles in the Arctic have shown that they are the causes of fluctuations in local breeding among geese and waders.[5] Recovery of lemmings after years of low density is associated with a period of successful breeding and maintenance of their young in the snow.[6]

The diet of the Arctic lemming has been studied, and it has been found to consist of 86% dicotyledons, 14% monocotyledons, and less than 1% mosses. The diet of a family of lemmings consists mostly of Saliceae. Poaceae are also in their diet.[7]

They are a well studied example of a cyclic predator−prey relationship. Terns in the Arctic target lemmings that move in groups; after attacks, lemmings seek shelter in holes or elsewhere out of the terns' territory to avoid additional attacks.[8]


During the winter, Arctic lemmings make nests in order to help maintain thermoregulation, maintaining their young, and aids in their survival against predators.[9] One of their predators is the Arctic Fox and they would find that it difficult to hunt lemmings on account of the fact that they would burrow themselves deep within the snow. The fox would then have to dig through the snow in order to reach them.[10] Unfortunately, when snow is scarce and there isn't much for the lemmings to make a nest or burrow in, there would be periodic disappearances of lemmings because of hunting by other predators and their inability to protect themselves.[10]


  1. ^ a b Tsytsulina, K.; Formozov, N. & Sheftel, B. (2008). "Dicrostonyx torquatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  2. ^ Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. (2005). Superfamily Muroidea. pp. 894–1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  3. ^ Angerbjorn, Anders; Erlinge, Sam; Tannerfeldt, Magnus (January 1, 1991). "Predator-Prey Relationships: Arctic Foxes and Lemmings". Journal of Animal Ecology. 68 (1): 34–49. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2656.1999.00258.x. JSTOR 2647297.
  4. ^ "Arctic Lemming". Polar Husky. Archived from the original on February 24, 2016. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  5. ^ Aharon-Rotman, Yaara; Soloviev, Mikhail; Minton, Clive; Tomkovich, Pavel; Hassell, Chris; Klaassen, Marcel (2015-07-01). "Loss of periodicity in breeding success of waders links to changes in lemming cycles in Arctic ecosystems". Oikos. 124 (7): 861–870. doi:10.1111/oik.01730. ISSN 1600-0706.
  6. ^ "Arctic Report Card - Lemmings - Reid, et al". Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  7. ^ Soininen, Eeva M.; Gauthier, Gilles; Bilodeau, Frédéric; Berteaux, Dominique; Gielly, Ludovic; Taberlet, Pierre; Gussarova, Galina; Bellemain, Eva; Hassel, Kristian (2015-01-30). "Highly Overlapping Winter Diet in Two Sympatric Lemming Species Revealed by DNA Metabarcoding". PLoS ONE. 10 (1): e0115335. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115335. PMC 4312081. PMID 25635852.
  8. ^ Mallory, M. L.; Boadway, K. A.; Boadway, J. J. T.; Akearok, J. A. (2010-01-01). "Breeding Arctic Terns Kill Lemmings". ARCTIC. 63 (3): 359–361. doi:10.14430/arctic1499. ISSN 1923-1245.
  9. ^ Fauteux, Dominique; Gauthier, Gilles; Berteaux, Dominique (2015-09-01). "Seasonal demography of a cyclic lemming population in the Canadian Arctic". Journal of Animal Ecology. 84 (5): 1412–1422. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12385. ISSN 1365-2656. PMID 25939755.
  10. ^ a b Bilodeau, Frédéric; Gauthier, Gilles; Berteaux, Dominique (2013-08-16). "Effect of snow cover on the vulnerability of lemmings to mammalian predators in the Canadian Arctic". Journal of Mammalogy. 94 (4): 813–819. doi:10.1644/12-MAMM-A-260.1. ISSN 0022-2372.

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