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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.