Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 45

lemming - Population fluctuations, Classification, Popular culture

migration lemmus sea

A mouse-like rodent of the tribe: Lemmini (9 species); large powerful head, long fur, short tail; prone to large fluctuations in numbers. The Norway lemming (Lemmus lemmus) undergoes a population ‘explosion’ every 3–4 years. When this happens there is a mass migration, thought to be a response to overcrowding (not food shortage). The direction of migration appears random, and sometimes groups reaching large bodies of water, including the sea, will swim offshore and drown in large numbers. There is no basis for the popular belief that lemmings march suicidally into the sea.

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