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Glacier mice

Racomitrium sp.


Not your usual type of rodent! These glacier balls of moss, commonly known as glacier mice, form around dust and organic debris on glaciers in Iceland and elsewhere. Glacier mice have recently been found to contain rich miniature ecosystems hosting springtails, water bears and nematode worms. Find out more in the notes and reference.


Svínafellsjökull glacier, Iceland. Last shot shows the habitat. 4th shot: glacier mice in formation.


In 2012 arctic biologists at the University Center in Svalbard, Norway, and at Nottingham Trent University, UK, found that glacier mice from the Falljökull, Iceland, contained invertebrates: 2 species of Collembola (small arthropods commonly known as springtails), tardigrades (tiny eight-legged moisture-loving creatures often called water bears) and nematode worms. They suggested that glacier mice “provide an unusual environmentally ameliorated microhabitat for an invertebrate community dwelling on a glacial surface. The glacier mice thereby enable an invertebrate fauna to colonise an otherwise largely inhospitable location with implications for carbon flow in the system”. COULSON, S.J. and MIDGLEY, N.G., 2012. The role of glacier mice in the invertebrate colonisation of glacial surfaces: the moss balls of the Falljökull, Iceland. Polar Biology, 35 (11), pp. 1651-1658.

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DanielePralong 4 years ago

Easy to miss Mark :-) They don't look like much... but there's a whole world inside :-)

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 4 years ago

How did I miss this! (Don't answer) Wonderful stuff.

DanielePralong 7 years ago

Thanks Luis!

LuisStevens 7 years ago

Very interesting.

DanielePralong 7 years ago

Thanks namitha!

namitha 7 years ago

Really interesting information. Thank you for sharing.

DanielePralong 7 years ago

Thanks everyone for your interest!

Adarsha B S
Adarsha B S 7 years ago

Very nice information :)

Wild Things
Wild Things 7 years ago

Great spotting and information Daniele!

Mona Pirih
Mona Pirih 7 years ago

Thank you for sharing Daniele.. First time I know this !!

Thank you so much, DanielePralong, for the information and pictures of this interesting Glacier mice, Racomitrium sp.

Maria dB
Maria dB 7 years ago

This is a really interesting spotting!

Harsha Singh
Harsha Singh 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing this rare spotting with such precious information. :)

DanielePralong 7 years ago

My pleasure Suzanne! Glad you found it interesting.

suzmonk 7 years ago

Really, really interesting, DanielePralong. Miniature ecosystems on the ice ... if life can find a way, it will. Spectacular spotting. And thanks for the notes!

Spotted by


Spotted on Jun 22, 2013
Submitted on Aug 20, 2013

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