Are Lemmings Really Suicidal? The Truth Behind Animal Myths
For Weird Animal Question of the Week, we also investigate whether ostriches really bury their heads in the sand and if cats always land on their feet.
"Are lemmings really suicidal?" Andrew Orr asked us via Facebook—inspiring Saturday's Weird Animal Question of the Week to investigate popular animal tales and see which ones are, well, a load of bull.
For starters, lemmings—mouse-like rodents that live in tundras of North America and northern Europe—don't kill themselves on purpose.
In Sweden and Finland, these springtime spikes push lemmings to disperse from the mountains in search of better accommodations, a journey described by National Geographic magazine in 1918.
When lemmings encounter water bodies, some are jostled into swimming, Jarrell says, and, being unable to swim far, "huge numbers wash up on the beaches."
As for the migrating lemmings that avoid a watery death, they often survive and produce colonies for a