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Monday, May 7, 2012

British Scientists Say Dinosaurs Farted Their Way To Extinction

British scientists have concluded that what made the dinosaurs extinct might not have been an asteroid, but rather their remarkable ability to pass gas – and lots of it.

Researchers at Liverpool John Moore's University prepared a computer model to determine how much methane gas would have been produced by the class of dinosaurs known as sauropods – the massive, lumbering, plant-eaters that included brontosaurus and brachiosaurus. They looked at how much methane cows produce each day and extrapolated that to dinosaurs that weighed as much as 90 tons and ate hundreds of pounds of leafy greens every day. The team found that it's likely that sauropods produced thousands of litres of methane gas each day, meaning that they basically farted form sunrise to sunset.

When multiplied by the entire sauropod population during the Mesozoic era, some 150 million years ago, the amount of methane produced each year was estimated to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 520 million tons a year. That's 20 million more tons of the greenhouse gas than we produce each year, leading the researchers to wonder if such prodigious amounts of rear-end symphonies could have sped up climate change. Given that the planet's average temperature was about 10 degrees C warmer back then than it is today, the researchers suggest that the dinosaurs contribution to methane levels in the atmosphere could have led to long-term temperature increases and hence, threats to their existence.

While this study does appear in the vaunted pages of the journal Current Biology, it's also far from definitive proof that dinosaurs basically farted themselves to death. But the study's conclusions do raise important questions about what role animals play in climate change – after all, cows produce about 100 million tons of methane a year. But whatever you take from this, just don't think that holding it in is going to save the planet.

[TG Daily]

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