Beanz Meanz Deathz

By DeusExMacintosh

Dinosaurs farted themselves to death

Giant dinosaurs could have warmed the planet with their flatulence, say researchers.

British scientists have calculated the methane output of sauropods, including the species known as Brontosaurus. By scaling up the digestive wind of cows, they estimate that the population of dinosaurs – as a whole – produced 520 million tonnes of gas annually.

They suggest the gas could have been a key factor in the warm climate 150 million years ago.

David Wilkinson from Liverpool John Moore’s University, and colleagues from the University of London and the University of Glasgow published their results in the journal Current Biology.

Sauropods, such as Apatosaurus louise (formerly known as Brontosaurus), were super-sized land animals that grazed on vegetation during the Mesozoic Era.

For Dr Wilkinson, it was not the giants that were of interest but the microscopic organisms living inside them.

“The ecology of microbes and their role in the working of our planet are one of my key interests in science,” he told BBC Nature.

“Although it’s the dinosaur element that captures the popular imagination with this work, actually it is the microbes living in the dinosaurs guts that are making the methane.”

Methane is known as a “greenhouse gas” that absorbs infrared radiation from the sun, trapping it in the Earth’s atmosphere and leading to increased temperatures.

Previous studies have suggested that the Earth was up to 10C (18F) warmer in the Mesozoic Era.

With the knowledge that livestock emissions currently contribute a significant part to global methane levels, the researchers used existing data to estimate how sauropods could have affected the climate.

BBC News

Look, I’m sorry. But it was this, or that other Jurassic classic…

17 Comments

  1. kvd
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    Sauropods, such as Apatosaurus louise (formerly known as Brontosaurus)

    Never heard of Louise; I thought it was Dorothy?

  2. Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Emily or Charlotte, surely… if we’re talking Bronte-saurus.

  3. kvd
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    Ha! Don’t take me so literally 😉

  4. Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Fart jokes. Hours of amusement. Hours…

  5. Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Hate to be a party pooper but its cow belches at fault ….. not farts :S

  6. kvd
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Well actually, SL, I was discussing dinosaur nomenclature with particular reference to both childrens’ and classical literature. But then there’s also the influence of modern culture to be considered, what with the Tyranosaurus named after Tyra Banks, the megasaurus named after Megan Gale, and the diplodocus obviously named after those dipsticks at Cambridge. Anyway, the whole lot of them – the dinosaurs – were named after Dean Martin, so no further proof needed really.

    And I do just sometimes wish people would stick to the topic 😉

  7. Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I’m assuming ‘livestock emissions’ covers both ends.

    … Like I said, hours …

  8. Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    An entertainer once scored an estate off King John for “leaping and farting” before the court one Christmas.

  9. Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Just trying to preserve this blog’s high intellectual tone… sorry about that.

  10. Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] One of the many gems in 1215: the Year of Magna Carta, which I reviewed here.

  11. Movius
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    ‘Brontosaurus’ was an Apatosaurus Excelsus, not Louisae (note the a.)

  12. Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Actually, it’s significant enough that a recent CSIRO estimate of running non-methanogenic kangaroos for meat on the land currently used by methanogenic pig, sheep and cattle for meat would cut down Australia’s CO2-equivalent emissions by 5%.

    Now, the problem with this particular study is that you are guessing about the behaviour of the Jurassic bacteria (methanogenic or non-methanogenic, and the extent to which other organisms (either other bugs or the dinosaur itself) could use the hydrocarbons for energy.

    It’s pretty tough to figure out whether the biochemistry of bacteria inhabiting dinosaurs, in respect to methanogenesis, resembled the bugs that live in kangaroos or those in cattle – and it makes a huge difference to the estimates.

  13. Posted May 10, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think coprolytes would be much use, even decent dna would be difficult to analyze, because it’s not just the sequences that make different enzymes, it’s the ratios of the enzymes, which would mean figuring out the promotor segments at the front of the gene. Maybe if dino poop got.quickly covered in amber you’d have a chance, but it would still be awfully tricky, and there could still be differences between different dinosaur spp as far as gut flora go.

    As for the biggysauruses … I am reminded of how rogue male elephants coming across a lot of fruit get the chance to scoff the lot (a herd would share) and the fermentation can make the elephant drunk. Can you imagine a very drunk apatosaurus staggering about and keeling over?

    So …. Dave’s silly extinction theory – proper flowering plants came along, the sugars fermented in the guts, and the dinos got too pickled to procreate.

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