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Questions! Questions That Need Answering

Did the Dinosaurs Create Their Own Climate Change Troubles by Farting?


Hold on to your butts: Liverpudlian scientists are positing a new wrinkle in how we understand the climate of ancient Earth, specifically in the Mesozoic period, which, as many five year olds can tell you with perfect clarity, was a time when giant lizards dominated the planet’s ecosystems. Dave Wilkinson and collaborators believe that the enormous, long necked herbivores known as sauropods and titanosaurs, with their accompanying enormous digestive systems, may have been responsible for the higher temperatures of the period by turning the entire world into a Dutch Oven.

Join us, ladies and gentlemen, for some hard theoretical numbers on dinosaur farts.

To be clear: Wilkinson is not suggesting a new extinction theory that the dinosaurs farted themselves to death. Simply that it seems likely that they would be able to raise the overall temperature of the planet by virtue of their capability to produce methane.

The key to the research was studying modern large ruminant (animals that digest vegetation by softening it in a first stomach, regurgitating it, chewing “cud,” and then swallowing it again) herbivores and how much methane they produce on a regular basis. Modern ruminants produce 45-90 million tons of methane a year, a tiny but still notable percentage of our planet’s yearly methane production. The researchers found a correlation between the mass of the animal species and the amount of methane it produced, and extrapolated from there based on size and population estimates to say that animals in the Mesozoic may have produced 472 million tons a year.

“Indeed,” says Wilkinson, “our calculations suggest that these dinosaurs could have produced more methane than all modern sources – both natural and man-made – put together.” And that amount, would certainly have had an effect on the global climate, contributing to the warmer temperatures of the era. Other factors that contributed to this ancient greenhouse effect might have been forest fires and naturally occurring surface gasfields.

This should come as sobering news to the major conglomerates, who shall remain nameless, who have been attempting to cover up a series of incidents at what are obviously giant parks of cloned dinosaurs for almost twenty years now. It is not enough that they endanger human lives and the local environments of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna (not to mention the San Diego incident), they are also putting the world climate at risk as well.

A missive from the United Dinosaur Council had this brief response to the controversy unleashed by the research: “Those who smelt it, dealt it.”

(Story via The Telegraph, pic via Flickr.)

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  • Anonymous

    While there could well be correlations, there’s a bit of an issue in the fact that (at least the large sauropods) weren’t ruminants, and their digestive systems were rather different from those of modern mammals.  Still, no crazier than some of the other theories I’ve heard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sean-Samonas/1588821150 Sean Samonas

    Gentlemen, welcome to Jurassic Pa…OH GOD WHAT IS THAT SMELL?????!?!?!??!

  • Jim MacDougall

    If that’s the case, the men’s at my workplace is due for climate change any second now.

  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    These dinosaurs couldn’t possibly blow more hot air than southern politicians who are waging a war against science, dinos, monkeys and evolution.  Read about the absurdities being taught to children in the south by the holy lighting rod of creationism at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.htm

  • Frodo Baggins

    Spectacular opening line, Susana.

    Lose the “giant lizards,” though.

  • Frodo Baggins

    What I’m wondering is how they calculate the populations. Surely there are way more cows now than there were sauropods at any given point?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ryan-Quavey-Havers/1593505278 Ryan ‘Quavey’ Havers

     Crappy situation.

  • http://twitter.com/AbelUndercity Abel Undercity

    Debunked. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/05/the_reports_of_dinosaurs_dying.php