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Lemmings – small rodents, famous for the unprecedented fertility and amazing migrations. Lemmings are a family of Khomyakov and systematically close to voles and hamsters, but the mice have a more distant relationship. Total recovered 4-8 species of these rodents.
Lemmings – small animals, but still considerably larger than mice, their body length of 12-18 cm, the tail is short – only 1-2 cm By constitution, they are very similar to well-known hamsters: small eyes beady, short sensitive whiskers ( “whiskers”. ) and the same short legs. We collared lemming claws on their feet for the winter grow and become broader, besides they are also bifurcated at the ends – hence the name “hoof”. Coat short lemmings, their fur has no value. Painting in different species varies from gray to brown.
Lemmings live exclusively in the cold latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Circumpolar arctic lemming common, that is, its area covers the north pole of the ring, the other species occupy separate areas of the tundra. For example, Norway Lemming is found only on the Scandinavian and Kola Peninsula, home to the Siberian tundra of the Northern Dvina River to eastern Siberia, Amur Lemming is found only in eastern Siberia, and brown – only in Alaska and northern Canada. Like all rodent lemmings live alone, meeting each other only for mating, which, however, occurs frequently. they almost round the clock activity.
Most of the time lemmings live sedentary, occupying certain areas of tundra. Every animal on the site digging a hole in the top of the thawed permafrost layer of soil, sometimes lemmings do half-open nest of twigs and moss in the deepening of the soil. From holes in all directions diverge tiny paths trodden beast. Lemmings prefer to move on such paths and completely eat away the vegetation around them, in the winter they also adhere to these summer tracks, breaking through the tunnels under the snow. In winter, lemmings do not hibernate.
They feed on lemmings tundra grasses, twigs, leaves, buds, bark tundra shrubs and dwarf trees, berries. Forest lemming eats exclusively mosses and lichens. Since plant foods poor in minerals, the lemmings occasionally bite discarded antlers, egg shells of birds’ nests. Like all rodents, lemmings quite voracious and eat almost all my free time.
All kinds of lemmings are very fertile, forest lemming only gives 2 offspring per year, other species reproduce more frequently – 3-4 times a year. Moreover these northern rodents can reproduce not only in the warm season (after summer tundra short), but also in winter! Winter wedding lemmings play directly under the snow, without leaving the surface. Special rituals of courtship in these animals there. Pregnancy lasts 20-22 days, the female brings from 3 to 9 pups. The number of pups depends on forage conditions: in years with plenty of food in the litter can be 5-7 cubs in a hungry period of only 3-4. Interestingly, young lemmings are able to participate in breeding even before they fully develop. Young females are pregnant within 3 months after birth, when they reach only half the size of adult animals. Such fecundity makes lemmings most numerous animals of the tundra.
Periodically lemmings observed number flashes when all the females bring massively large litters in the crop year. Young animals are also actively involved in reproduction and in just a few months the number of lemmings increases 5-10 times higher than usual. At this time, the tundra is infested by these small animals that run out from under the feet with every step. This mass of rodents quickly eats food in their areas, it causes hunger and increases aggression among the animals. Normally peaceful lemmings at the time clashed with each other. Finally, there comes a critical moment in the population will turn on migratory instincts. By the end of this phenomenon has not been studied, but lemmings begin to gather in groups of 10-15 animals, which merged into larger groups, and move in the same direction. Determine the direction of their migration are not, that is, lemmings move in any direction. In the end, an avalanche of animals, in the millions of individuals begins to storm the barrier – the lemmings move in any terrain, regardless of its landscape, overcoming mountains, swamps, forests, trying (sometimes successfully) to cross wide rivers and even the ocean …. Of course, cross the ocean (like the river in most cases) lemmings can not afford, but they doggedly immersed in the waves, driven by blind instinct and die. Such behavior of the animals was the basis for prejudice that lemmings commit suicide. In fact, animals are only subject to the instinct of migration, which calls them to follow others. Separated from fellow lemmings do not show anxiety and suicidal tendencies.
Being a massive animal, lemmings form the basis of ration foxes, polar owls, peregrines, merlins. All these animals prefer the lemmings over other types of production, even their fertility is closely linked to the number of lemmings in this season. However, about the mass migrations of lemmings become too accessible prey, so they begin to hunt other animals. Lemmings eat wolves, ravens, large gulls, skuas, brown and polar bears, and even a completely peaceful geese and reindeer! Not prey geese and deer make up for the lack of protein in such a way in the body. After the recession the number of lemmings are scarce and predators are also in a period of little offspring. Thus, the number of 1-2 is restored, the number of outbreaks occur every 3-5 years.
Lemmings are not a rarity, and do not benefit a person, but they are certainly an important part of the natural balance of the tundra. Without lemmings many kinds of wild animals could not exist.