Rats! Or not, actually. Historians may have it wrong about the Black Death–the second plague pandemic or “Great Plague” that savaged Europe beginning in the 14th century, killing millions. Blame for the pandemic has long been shouldered by the infamous black rat, carrying fleas in “rodent reservoirs.” But a new study “offers an alternative explanation to putative European rodent reservoirs for how the disease could have persisted in Europe for so long.”
Turns out the rats didn’t thrive in Asia–where the plague originated. Asia, scientists have now determined, just didn’t have rat-friendly weather mid-1300s. It had gerbil-friendly weather. The new study contends that gerbils, not rats, traveled the Silk Road to bring the Black Death to Europe.