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Lemmings ARE "suicidal"

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Isbjorn
1128579.  Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:49 am Reply with quote

Ok.... Alan Davies or Jo Brand got buzzed for re-stating the old urban legend based on the infamous 1958 Disney film "White Wilderness", and yes, the filmmakers did admit to staging the "jumping off the cliff en masse" suicide footage (by shipping lemmings from Norway to Canada, putting them on a turn-table, and then literally pushing them off a precipice), BUT....

here in northern Norway they DO display many strange behaviours which seem contrary to survival and self-preservation (both individually and collectively) and thus might accurately be considered "suicidal".

Unlike most mammals, they don't seem to have an instinct for peak resource management tied to reproductive rates. Lemming populations greatly fluctuate from year to year, like in a 4 year cycle. In population boom years, they reproduce so much that they exhaust all the resources in an area, and they do start to migrate in large hordes. The thing is, Norway is a very steep, rocky, peninsula and archipelago filled place. So lots of them drown in the ocean trying to reach a new habitat and those that remain starve. So the population goes down to almost nothing some years. (Humans don't have this instinct either, I might add)

Secondly, although lemmings are small, hamster-like rodents, they don't have the typical run away from danger instinct (flight) that most small prey animals do. For baffling reasons, they instead tend to have an aggressive (fight) response. Short of actually attacking, they will puff up, emit angry squeaks, and come after humans, even when swimming! Of course it's a bluff, but I would also call this type of behaviour "suicidal" also since a human could easily stomp on it, or hit it with a boat paddle.

Jumping off of cliffs... eh, not true. Mass migrations and highly risky behaviour... true, "from a certain point of view."



"I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you"

 
CharliesDragon
1128585.  Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:40 am Reply with quote

Mice also have cycles like that, although it's not as visible. Well, unless you have cats and wake up to a lawn full of dead mice every morning, which was the case with us last summer.

All animals here actually have cycles like that, but lemmings are extreme and extremely visible when a horde emerges. The year following a rodent explosion will usually be good for foxes and other predators that benefit from eating the rodents and then having an easier winter. The moose population will also collapse slightly either due to lack of food, illness and/or parasites when it exceeds the limit.

Again, lemmings are a very good example of this cycling, but it is not unique to them.

Oh, and hi there, fellow Norwegian. :P

 
crissdee
1131595.  Thu Apr 30, 2015 7:01 am Reply with quote

Isbjorn wrote:
For baffling reasons, they instead tend to have an aggressive (fight) response. Short of actually attacking, they will puff up, emit angry squeaks, and come after humans, even when swimming! Of course it's a bluff, but I would also call this type of behaviour "suicidal" also since a human could easily stomp on it, or hit it with a boat paddle.


But to call that "suicidal" implies forethought and appreciation of consequences, which you imply they don't have with regards to over population etc....

 

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