Dinosaur farts helped warm Earth
Tue, 08 May 2012 12:16p.m.
By Seth Borenstein
Potty humour just got prehistoric. A new study suggests that dinosaurs may have helped keep an already overheated world warmer with their flatulence and burps 200 million years ago.
The research published this week in Current Biology suggests that large dinosaurs made a significant contribution to the greenhouse effect back then. Study author David Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University in England estimated that about 570 million tons of methane came from dinosaurs. That's similar to total atmospheric levels of methane today produced by livestock, farming and industry. Cows alone now produce nearly 100 tons a year of methane.
The study looks at the biggest - and presumably gassiest - dinosaurs, called sauropods. These were the long-necked plant eaters that munched on the top of trees. They were large animals that had food fermenting in their guts for long periods of time because of their giant size, said University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz, who wasn't part of the study.
Wilkinson said dinosaur gas was just one factor at a time when the world was quite tropical, about 10 degrees (C) warmer than now. But he said some in the media and blogosphere have misinterpreted his study to say it was the main cause of ancient warming. In a phone interview, Wilkinson said it was only one of the causes, but dinosaur gas "is big enough to be a measurable effect".
What caused the ancient pre-human world to be so hot - just the way the dinosaurs needed it - was a variety of factors. Volcanoes spewed much more greenhouse gases than now, Holtz said. Swamps, water currents, shallow seas and plentiful plankton combined to raise greenhouse gas levels far higher than today, he said.
Outside climate experts say the study makes some sense, but that the warming from dinosaur gas back then is dwarfed by man-made carbon dioxide today from industry.
NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt quickly ran some calculations based on Wilkinson's figures. Dinosaur methane would have hiked temperatures 0.3 degrees Celsius, which is a fraction of what's been caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil in the 20th Century, he said.
It's also wrong to suggest the study blames dinosaur flatulence for their extinction, Holtz said. He noted that the sauropods started showing up - and getting gassy - around 200 million years ago and didn't die off until 65 million years ago.
University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said: "Frankly, methane emissions from dinosaur burps is probably not the No. 1 thing we should be concerned about in modern society."
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
8/05/2012 10:21:17 p.m.
Does anyone actually believe this garbage?
8/05/2012 4:35:47 p.m.
Dinosaur farting and/or burping had minimal, if any effect on global climate warming during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, other wise known as "Age of the Dinosaur". The climate was warming continuously throughout this time in Earths history. As Mr Holtz mentioned, The Earth experienced an unusually high number of Volcanic eruptions as what is today know as "Super-volcanoes" formed and also New Zealand formed as the result of volcanic activity. Another contributing factor was the Supercontinent of Pangaea was ripping apart due to tectonic movements. creating oceanic current , with in turn created air circulation (winds) which distributed the greenhouse gases globally, heating the atmosphere. Towards the end of the Cretaceous period, the Carbon Dioxide level globally was roughly 4 times higher than today. The average global temperature was 25 degrees celsius as compared to todays average of 15 degree celsius.
A woman in the United States did a double take when she discovered her cat had given birth to a two-faced kitten.
A major clean-up is underway at a salmon farm in Golden Bay that bore the brunt of another landslide.
Auckland Airport has just wrapped up its first ever black swan cull.
The Ministry of Fisheries will begin assessing possible changes to snapper regulations next month.
Professional bee-keepers are worried about a Christchurch city councillor's plans to have beehives dotted around the city.
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.