Wild Animals

Top 10 Animal Myths

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Do Lemmings Commit Suicide?
Michael Durham/Minden Pictures/Getty Image

1. Do Lemmings Commit Suicide?

The lemmings earn the top spot on the myth list because the misconceptions about these critters are both legendary and long-standing, starting back in the 1530s when a geographer proposed that they fell from the skies during storms. These days, the most popular rumor is that lemmings commit mass suicide when they migrate, but the truth is much less dramatic. Every three or four years, their population drops to near extinction only to skyrocket again, but the ebb and flow is a result of migration in large groups, which can include jumping off cliffs into the water and swimming great distances to the point of exhaustion and even death. The myth was also fueled by the 1958 Academy Award-winning documentary that showed the lemmings leaping to their deaths, but the scene was later busted for being staged. MYTH VERDICT: FALSE


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