It's a gas: dinosaur flatulence may have warmed Earth

Model suggests that microbes in dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have important effect on climate.


Reuters May 09, 2012

WASHINGTON: In a major new climate finding, researchers have calculated that dinosaur flatulence could have put enough methane into the atmosphere to warm the planet during the hot, wet Mesozoic era.

Like gigantic, long-necked, prehistoric cows, sauropod dinosaurs roamed widely around the Earth 150 million years ago, scientists reported in the journal Current Biology on Monday.

And just like big cows, their plant digestion was aided by methane-producing microbes.

"A simple mathematical model suggests that the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate," researcher Dave Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University said in a statement.

"Indeed, our calculations suggest that these dinosaurs could have produced more methane than all modern sources - both natural and man-made - put together," Wilkinson said.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with as much as 25 times the climate-warming potential as carbon dioxide.

This gas is enough of a factor in modern global warming that scientists have worked to figure out how much methane is emitted by cows, sheep and other plant-eating animals.

The inquiry raised questions about whether the same thing could have happened in the distant past.

Wilkinson and co-author Graeme Ruxton of the University of St. Andrews worked with methane expert Euan Nisbet at the University of London to make an educated guess about the degree to which gaseous emissions from sauropods could have warmed the atmosphere.

Calculating methane emissions from modern animals depends only on the total mass of the animals in question.

A mid-sized sauropod probably weighed about 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilos), and there were a few dozen of them per square mile (kilometre), the researchers found.

They reckoned that global methane emissions from sauropods were about 520 million tons per year, comparable to all modern methane emissions.

Unlike emissions of carbon dioxide, which come from natural sources but also from the burning of fossil fuels, methane emissions have decreased substantially since the start of the Industrial Revolution some 150 years ago.

Before the fossil-fuel intensive Industrial Revolution took off, methane emissions were roughly 200 million tons annually; modern ruminants, including cows, goats, giraffes and other animals, emit between 50 million and 100 million tons of methane a year.

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COMMENTS (4)

Pakistani First | 9 years ago | Reply

But as per Mullahs there was no such thing as Dinosaurs?

PakLand | 9 years ago | Reply So the historic animals were killed by their own emission and same will be our fate? Methane is the essence of universe. Whole life rotates around Carbon & Hydrogen. Upon research they found even Comet's "tail" is made of methane that it is carrying with it every where it goes. But didn't we need dinosaurs growing like grass or rain forest like plants to make a dent in the atmosphere emission? I know this "dinosaur gas" idea must have it's origin in pre-historic gas-producing bacteria's that changed the poisonous earth atmosphere for the better.

I guess if we can't produce an "Einstein" now to solve some riddles we can at least reproduce his way-of-thinking_ by assuming all-as-one like in a mystic's poetry, really. I believe that's the best way to break-the-codes. What proves Einstein had that approach? He in the end days was desperately working to have one equation instead of many that would balance out the universe and expose it's secrets. Only God knows what kind of an A-Bomb later generations would have made from it. Knowledge has that potential, to be abused by tyrants or men saving them self from tyrants.

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