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Study: Dinosaurs Farts Helped Warm Earth

From the Associated Press:

Gassy dinosaurs helped warm Earth

May 8, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Potty humor 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.

So the world was "overheated" 200 million years ago? What should the temperature have been?

The research published Monday 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.

Couldn’t Bean-O put an end to this problem?

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 18 degrees warmer than now (10 degrees Celsius). 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 about half a degree (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."

But methane emissions from cows and humans is a different story. That is the end of the world.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

7 Responses to “Study: Dinosaurs Farts Helped Warm Earth”

  1. dasher says:

    Well then, consider me public enemy #1. EVERYTHING makes me fart!!

  2. Enthalpy says:

    What if oil is abiotic after all?

  3. AcornsRNutz says:

    “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.”

    Which would explain the temperature being 18 degrees hotter back then

  4. untrainable says:

    I think we’re all missing the point of this research. In fact, the doctor who conducted the study missed what should have been his final conclusion. I mean, isn’t it obvious?

    Excessive farting creates a negative gravitational effect which draws meteors into the orbital path of the earth, which in turn causes dinosaur-made-disasters. You might even call it saurian terrorism. The end was nigh, and they did nothing. I’ll bet those dinos were morbidly obese too. And all that dino junk in the trunk, only added to the negative gravitational effects which ultimately caused the demise of all saurian life on earth.

    My God, someone give me a billion dollar grant, and I’ll write it up!

  5. canary says:

    AP really wasted energy and minds on one of “study author” David Wilkinson’s fiction on dinosaurs.
    David Wilkinson is not a doctor or professor just a nutty faculty member in Natural Science and Psychology. David Wilkinson wrote another farce on the “energy use” by a dinosaurs neck similar to an old vacuum cleaner.

    David Wilkinson’s picture on his site explains a lot. .

    Faculty Member, Natural Science and Psychology

    “Thus its 9-meter neck gave Brachiosaurus an 80% energy savings in foraging over what it would have spent had its neck been only 6 meters long, the pair reports online today in Biology Letters…

    The authors say that the energy savings might have even been enough to allow Brachiosaurus to raise its head and browse treetops. Nevertheless, they found that neck length would not have increased indefinitely, because there would have been sharply less energy savings from increasing neck length beyond 9 meters.

    Reader in Environmental Science


    I have wide interests in biology, environmental science and the history of science….

    For papers (including some PDF’s) see my web site.


    AP calls this a study and worthy news? What a waste thrown to the world to make it dumber.

  6. yadayada says:

    “570 million tons of methane came from dinosaurs”
    obviously, someone pulled a number out there butt (or a dinosaur butt)
    since they have no solid evidence for the number or dispersion of any specific type of dinosaur………
    how could they possibly make any calculations of methane production?
    unless of course it’s simply a wild ass guess in order to foist one’s name into the public arena
    &/or to further a cause celeb, or ………….oh wait

  7. Petronius says:

    The White House position on dinosaur emissions is still evolving.

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