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Dinosaur Flatulence Might Have Warmed Prehistoric Climate

The reconstructed head of a Dromaeosaur-like Theropod dinosaur, complete with saliva, is seen after opening of Australia's first permanent dinosaurs exhibition at the Australian Museum, Sydney, March 14, 2008 (file photo)
Dinosaurs might have contributed to a significant warming of the Earth's climate some 150 million years ago by passing large amounts of heat-trapping methane gas into the atmosphere.

That is the theory being proposed by researchers in Britain, whose new study suggests that huge plant-eating dinosaurs called sauropods pumped more methane into the atmosphere than all of today's natural and industrial sources of methane combined. Sauropods had methane-producing microbes in their bodies that aided digestion by fermenting chewed plant material.

The researchers say they did not set out to investigate dinosaur flatulence. They say the idea arose while they were studying sauropod ecology and wondered whether the reptiles could have emitted enough methane gas to warm Earth's climate during the Mesozoic period.

The study's co-authors say their calculations indicate that global methane emissions from sauropods alone could have reached 520 million tons per year - an amount comparable to all modern-day methane emissions combined. In contrast, the flatulence of modern cows and other ruminant animals accounts for only 50 to 100 tons of methane emissions per year.

The study is published in the journal, Current Biology.

Earlier, we implied that dinosaur flatulence might have indirectly caused the animals’ extinction. VOA regrets the error.