On the origin of the Norwegian lemming

Vendela K. Lagerholm*, Edson Sandoval-Castellanos, Dorothee Ehrich, Natalia I. Abramson, Adam Nadachowski, Daniela C. Kalthoff, Mietje Germonpré, Anders Angerbjörn, John R. Stewart, Love Dalén

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    The Pleistocene glacial cycles resulted in significant changes in species distributions, and it has been discussed whether this caused increased rates of population divergence and speciation. One species that is likely to have evolved during the Pleistocene is the Norwegian lemming (Lemmus lemmus). However, the origin of this species, both in terms of when and from what ancestral taxon it evolved, has been difficult to ascertain. Here, we use ancient DNA recovered from lemming remains from a series of Late Pleistocene and Holocene sites to explore the species' evolutionary history. The results revealed considerable genetic differentiation between glacial and contemporary samples. Moreover, the analyses provided strong support for a divergence time prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), therefore likely ruling out a postglacial colonization of Scandinavia. Consequently, it appears that the Norwegian lemming evolved from a small population that survived the LGM in an ice-free Scandinavian refugium.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2060-2071
    Number of pages12
    JournalMolecular Ecology
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • ancient DNA
    • colonization
    • extinction
    • Lemmus
    • Pleistocene
    • speciation


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