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Did Dinosaur Farts Warm Earth?

May 8, 2012 15:07 by Bran

No, you didn't read that headline incorrectly. A new study suggests that ancient Earth may have been warmed by gaseous emissions from dinosaurs. 

According to National Geographic, "Like modern-day ruminants, giant plant-eating dinosaurs likely had microbes in their guts that gave off large amounts of methane—a potent greenhouse gas even more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide."  Currently, ruminants like cows and giraffes release as much as 100 million metric tons of methane every year--a major piece of the up to 600 million metric tons emitted per year.

Because these animals have large forestomachs filled with microbes to break down plant material, the byproduct called methane is created.

Scientists estimate, based on their size and the amount of land available at the time, that each dinosaur emitted approximately 4.2 pounds of methane every day. "A U.S. cow, by comparison, might give off a daily average of 0.4 to 0.7 pound (0.2 to 0.3 kilogram)," reports National Geographic.  Combined, dinosaurs could have produced an extraordinary 520 million metric tons of the gas annually.

Could all the extra gas explain why dinosaurs lived in a warmer world than we do?

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