Dino Farts Contributed to Mesozoic Global Warming?
That’s the thought that flitted through my mind when I saw the headline…
As a Vampyre Fangs blog article disclosed a short time ago, this staggering information comes hot on the heels of another theory implicating (albeit with the help of VF’s fervent imagination and conspiracy theories) polar bear farts as a source of increased arctic methane emissions! 
What’s with the geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com these days? For some odd reason, the subject of passing gas seem to be hanging in the air (no pun intended) in the hallowed halls of that bastion of scientific research. Why the obsession with butt burps? Why the fixation on flatulence?
But I digress…
According to the article, “Sauropod dinosaurs could in principle have produced enough of the greenhouse gas methane to warm the climate many millions of years ago, at a time when Earth was warm and wet. That’s according to calculations reported in the May 8th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.”
“The hulking sauropods, distinctive for their enormous size and unusually long necks, were widespread about 150 million years ago. As in cows, methane-producing microbes aided the sauropods’ digestion by fermenting their plant food.”
So this was more than Bessy the Heifer and her pals floating the occasional air biscuit. We’re talking about huge herds of herbivorous dinosaurs cutting the cheese on a breath-taking scale.
“A simple mathematical model suggests that the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate,” said Dave Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University.”
OK, so sauropods shooting the canon en masse was problematic way back when. Now, how do their ancient anal salutes compare with modern stinky output?
“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.”
Wilkinson and study coauthor Graeme Ruxton from the University of St Andrews were studying sauropod ecology when a question dawned on them: If modern cows produce enough methane gas to be of interest to climate scientists, what about sauropods?
What, indeed! Holsteins the size of small buildings blowing the big brown horn day in and day out. Whose imagination would not be fired up at the prospect?
They teamed up with methane expert Euan Nisbet at the University of London to work out the numbers.
Wilkinson confessed that “trying to estimate this for animals that are unlike anything living has to be a bit of an educated guess.” That did not stop the intrepid scientists from estimating the prehistoric poots.
Using estimated size and population densities , Wilkinson, Ruxton, and Nisbet calculate global methane emissions from sauropods to have been 520 million tons (520 Tg) per year, comparable to total modern methane emissions. Before industry took off on modern Earth about 150 years ago, methane emissions were roughly 200 Tg per year. By comparison, modern ruminant animals, including cows, goats, giraffes, and others, produce methane emission of 50 to 100 Tg per year.
520 million tons per year! A serious pantload, by anyone’s calculations!
The study’s conclusions not only show “just how strange and wonderful the workings of the planet are” but also serve as a useful reminder for the importance of microbes and methane for global climate, the researchers say.
 Not really true. I just can’t resist spreading this totally unfounded rumour.
 A medium-sized sauropod weighed something like 20,000 kilograms (about 44,500 pounds – over 22 tons!) , and sauropods lived in densities ranging from a few large adults to a few tens of individuals per square kilometer.