Nation & World

Study: Rats didn’t cause Black Death, gerbils did

A gerbil
A gerbil video image

Seems like rats have been getting a bad rap, at least when it comes to the Black Death. Now it looks like gerbils, those furry little pets, could have been the real carriers of the Black Death from Asia to Europe in the 14th century.

The disease killed millions of people over four centuries. A new study by researchers at Norway’s University of Oslo clears the much maligned black rat and shifts blame to gerbils from central Asia.

Researchers examined tree-ring records to determine what climate conditions were like during the time when the plague was prevalent. They discovered weather conditions in Europe were not in line with those needed for a rat-driven outbreak, but conditions were optimum in Asia for gerbils and fleas to thrive.

But if you have a pet gerbil, don’t worry. They no longer carry the plague.