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Ice Age warmth wiped out lemmings
Lemmings became "regionally extinct" five times due to rapid climate change during the last Ice Age, scientists have found. Each extinction was followed by a re-colonisation of genetically different lemmings, according to the study. It investigated how Europe's small mammals fared during the era when large numbers of megafauna became extinct. Previously, experts believed that small mammals were largely unaffected during the Late Pleistocene.
Collared Lemming (Winter). As snow starts to fall, lemmings grow oversize claws on the third and fourth toes of their front feet. This allows them to dig tunnels in the snow all winter. Staying below the surface helps them avoid predators while they shovel in search of food. By spring, their intense burrowing wears down their claws to a normal size again.
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Long-traveling Lemmings: In the Arctic tundra, over-population and a scarcity of food sends lemmings on mass migrations at high speeds. Researchers clocked one trek of the petite mammals at almost 10 miles a day. For the weak, the pace of the journey is just too much and they are left behind to die.
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Lemmings are common in the far north of Canada, Greenland and the Taimyr Peninsula; for reasons which are not entirely clear, lemming populations exhibit a classic three- or -four-year population cycle. Arctic Wildlife; www.bradtguides.com.