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BBC News - 'Gerbils replace rats' as main cause of Black Death - 2 views

  • If we're right, we'll have to rewrite that part of history."
  • The Black Death, which originated in Asia, arrived in Europe in 1347 and caused one of the deadliest outbreaks in human history.
  • It had been thought that black rats were responsible for allowing the plague to establish in Europe, with new outbreaks occurring when fleas jumped from infected rodents to humans.
  • ...5 more annotations...
  • They compared tree-ring records from Europe with 7,711 historical plague outbreaks to see if the weather conditions would have been optimum for a rat-driven outbreak.
  • "We show that wherever there were good conditions for gerbils and fleas in central Asia, some years later the bacteria shows up in harbour cities in Europe and then spreads across the continent," Prof Stenseth said. He said that a wet spring followed by a warm summer would cause gerbil numbers to boom.
  • And because this was a period when trade between the East and West was at a peak, the plague was most likely brought to Europe along the silk road, Prof Stenseth explained.
  • "Suddenly we could sort out a problem. Why did we have these waves of plagues in Europe?
  • The team now plans to analyse plague bacteria DNA taken from ancient skeletons across Europe. If the genetic material shows a large amount of variation, it would suggest the team's theory is correct.
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    This article calls into question how the plague was moved from Asia to Europe..not fleas, but Gerbils:) 
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