Polar Biology

pp 1–7

Not only mosses: lemming winter diets as described by DNA metabarcoding

  • Eeva M. Soininen
  • Lucie Zinger
  • Ludovic Gielly
  • Nigel G. Yoccoz
  • John-Andre Henden
  • Rolf A. Ims
Short Note

DOI: 10.1007/s00300-017-2114-3

Cite this article as:
Soininen, E.M., Zinger, L., Gielly, L. et al. Polar Biol (2017). doi:10.1007/s00300-017-2114-3


The temporal dynamics of most tundra food webs are shaped by the cyclic population dynamics of lemmings. While processes during winter may be behind the recent disruptions of lemming cycles, lemming winter ecology is poorly known. We present here the first DNA metabarcoding data on the winter diet of Norwegian lemmings (Lemmus lemmus), based on feces collected after a winter of population increase. Prostrate willows, mosses, and graminoids dominated the species winter diet, indicating that the conventional idea of lemmings as moss-specialists should be revised. The behavior of lemming-plant models in theoretical studies is conditional on the assumptions of mosses being their main winter food item. As shrubs have been excluded from the framework of these models, incorporating them in future modeling studies should nuance our understanding on how plants affect lemmings. We also sampled diet of a few individuals found dead on top of the snow. These individuals had relatively empty stomachs and had, prior to death, relied heavily on mosses. This apparent lack of abundant good quality indicates spatial heterogeneity in local food availability during the population increase phase.


Arctic Bryophyte Lemmus lemmus Prostrate Salix Snowbed Winter 

Supplementary material

300_2017_2114_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (186 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 185 KB)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Oskar Huttunen Foundation
    Norwegian Research Council
    • EcoFinn

    Copyright information

    © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

    Authors and Affiliations

    1. 1.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyUiT – The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
    2. 2.Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineUMR CNRS-UGA-USMB 5553, Université Grenoble AlpesGrenoble Cedex 9France
    3. 3.Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier, CNRS, ENFA, UMR 5174 EDBToulouseFrance

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