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November 7, 2008

There Go the Lemmings

No, I'm not talking about crazed right-wingers following their nutjob leaders off a cliff. Those types prefer circular firing squads (you get to use guns for that, after all). I'm honestly talking about lemmings. The rodents.

The lemmings are indeed in trouble. It turns out that lemmings need snow to create their burrows - no snow, no lemming houses. In fact, at least in Norway, there haven't been cliff-diving lemmings (which only happens when the lemming population peaks every 3-5 years) since 1994. Their numbers are now cratering, according to a new study in Nature. And if the lemmings go, so do the sub-Arctic foxes and snowy owls.

So now we can add all of them to the growing list of charismatic megafauna doomed by climate change. For those keeping score at home, that includes some of my personal faves: polar bears, penguins and kangaroos.

Sigh.

Photo by Kristoffer Gleditsch used under CC license.

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