Nature: Heartache proves a gerbil is for life

Lovelorn gerbils separated from their mates display the same symptoms as depressed divorcees, scientists have found. Researchers at Leeds University believe the rodents could provide useful models for studying the biochemistry of depression in humans.

The team discovered that gerbils, especially females, became withdrawn and suffered altered sleep patterns when they lost their lifelong partners. They became active when other gerbils were sleeping and slept when the others were active. Gerbils were "remarkably similar" to humans in that they formed lifelong partnerships, the lead researcher, Nicola Starkey, told New Scientist magazine.

By observing the chemical changes accompanying symptoms in separated gerbils it might be possible to identify new targets for human drugs.