NORWAY – For over 200 years, Americans have been deceived into blaming black rats for bringing the Bubonic Plague to Europe, but scientists at the University of Oslo in Norway have come out to claim that rats didn’t cause the Black Death, gerbils did.
“If we’re right,” study co-author Nils Christian Stenseth told the BBC, “we’ll have to rewrite that part of history.”
Causing the deaths of over 100 million people across Europe, gerbils were said to have hitched a ride on caravans crossing into Europe from Asia through the Silk Road; while others must have been stowed away in merchant ships bringing products and people to Europe. Along these travelled fleas which spread the diseases when they all settled down in Europe.
Scientists were able to know that gerbils were the culprits and not rats when they studied over 7,700 tree ring records that gave information about climate and weather conditions in Europe during the outbreak of the plagues.
They discovered that Bubonic Plague outbreaks occurred in Europe relatively 15 years after a period of rainy season and warm temperatures in Asia, a condition that would be suitable to proliferation of gerbils and flea; meanwhile, the 1346 and 1353 timing of the outbreak did not correspond to any weather pattern in Europe at this time.
Having evidence that gerbils and not rats probably brought the Black Death, the scientists would want to make certain and would soon have to test the bacterial DNA in the skeletons of victims of the Bubonic Plague.