Overview

Distribution

Brown lemmings are found in the tundra regions of Siberia and North America. They can be found in arctic tundra and in subarctic alpine tundra above treeline.

(Jarrell & Fredga, 1993; Rodgers & Lewis, 1986; Stenseth & Ims, 1993c; Wilson & Ruff, 1999)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native )

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Range Description

Distributed across the Palaearctic tundra zone from the White Sea to Kolyma (Russian Federation); also found on New Siberia Island and Wrangel Island.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Brown lemmings have stout bodies which do not appear as elongated as other microtine rodents. Total body length is 130-180mm, averaging 150mm. Sexes are similar in size, though males are 5-10% larger than females. They have small eyes, small ears hidden under the fur, blunt muzzles, and short tails (18-26mm, averaging 21mm, including hair at the tip). Their backs and sides are tawny brown to cinnamon, with a paler underbelly; unlike some other lemming species (e.g. most species of the genus Dicrostonyx), they do not change colour in the winter. Older adults may have a rusty-coloured patch on the rump.

(Stenseth & Ims, 1993c; Wilson & Ruff, 1999)

Range mass: 45 to 130 g.

Average mass: 80 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

Brown lemmings live in northern treeless regions, usually in low-lying, flat meadow habitats dominated by graminoids and mosses. In summer, they live in areas rich in grasses and sedges, moving in winter to mossy areas with permanent snow cover or wet meadows. (Barkley et al., 1980; Rodgers & Lewis, 1985; Stenseth & Ims, 1993c; Wilson & Ruff, 1999)

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
An abundant species in tundra habitats. Populations reach maximum densities in lowland tundra with substantial moss and sedge cover. Also distributed in wetlands on shrubby tundra foothills, and in wetlands at the edge of the forest zone (Arkhangelsk, Northern Urals, Gyda peninsula, Taimyr). Lives in burrows, forming large colonies. Digs its own burrow, or occupies existing burrows of other species. In winter makes tunnels under snow cover and builds large spherical nests. Feeds on sedges, cotton-grass, green mosses and various shrubs. Reproductive peak starts in June and ends in August, however, during periods of low population density reproduction is extended and starts immediately after snowmelt. Animals that have overwintered die off by the end of the following breeding season. During summer produces 4-5 litters with 5-6 young in each. Like Lemmus lemmus, this species has large population fluctuations with a 3-4 year cycle; however, migrations are less pronounced. In summer dispersal occurs and preferred foraging habitat changes.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Brown lemmings eat only live plant parts. For most of the year, they eat fresh grasses, sedges, and mosses (except sphagnum). In summer in areas of wet tundra, their diet consists primarily of monocot leaves, making up 76 to 90%. In winter they eat frozen (but still green) plant material, the available 1-2cm of basal leaf sheaths, and moss shoots. Mosses can make up nearly one-half of their winter diet, and are also important in dry tundra, where mosses make up about 30% of their diet.

Because their food is so low in nutrients, they must eat quite a lot of it; they forage for 1-2 hours at a time, at roughly 3-hour intervals, throughout the 24-hour day.

(Barkley et al., 1980; Batzli, 1993; Wilson & Ruff, 1999)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Reproduction

Brown lemmings become sexually mature quite early, normally at 5-6 weeks of age, but possibly as early as 3 weeks in some summers. Females can breed immediately after giving birth (post-partum estrus). They give birth to 2-13 young, after a 3 week gestation period. Litter size averages 8 in summer, 4 to 5 in early and late winter, and 3 in mid-winter. There appears to be no reproduction during the spring snow melt (May through early June) nor during the fall snow pack formation (September through early October).

Not much is known about their reproductive habits, but it is likely that females rear the young alone, since no males have been caught in a wild nest with young. Non-receptive captive females have been known to attack males. It is also likely that breeding is promiscuous, since males have larger home ranges than females, and there is substantial overlap in the home ranges of multiple individuals.

(Stenseth & Ims, 1993a; Wilson & Ruff, 1999)

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lemmus sibiricus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Although there is no recognized, immediate threat to the global population of brown lemmings, they are in danger of decline in years to come. The predicted warming of the Canadian climate, and predicted northward migration of Canadian biota, may result in a reduction of the range of the brown lemming, which is limited in the north by the Arctic Ocean. Brown lemmings are quite inflexible in such traits as diet and preferred terrain, so they would be particularly sensitive to such a loss of habitat.

(Kerr & Packer, 1998)

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Tsytsulina, K., Formozov, N. & Sheftel, B.

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Temple, H. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
A common and widespread species with no major threats, hence listed as Least Concern.
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Population

Population
A widespread and common species; has marked population cycles with periodicity of 3-4 years.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species known at present. Climate change may be a problem in the future.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species occurs in several protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

No information available.

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No information available.

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Wikipedia

Siberian brown lemming

The Siberian brown lemming (Lemmus sibiricus) is a species of rodents in the family Cricetidae found in the Russian Federation. It does not hibernate during winter; it lives in burrows. It is prey to several animals, including the snowy owl and the Arctic fox. The lemmings are known for their high-amplitude, large-scale fluctuations of population sizes.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tsytsulina, K., Formozov, N. & Sheftel, B. (2008). Lemmus sibiricus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 June 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ Korpimäki, Erkki; Brown, Peter; Jacob, Jens; Pech, Roger (2004). "The Puzzles of Population Cycles and Outbreaks of Small Mammals Solved?". BioScience 54 (12): 1071–1079. 
  • 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.
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