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Earth Idle News

Methane Producing Dinosaurs May Have Changed Climate 264

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that huge plant-eating dinosaurs called sauropods may have produced enough greenhouse gas by breaking wind to alter the Earth's climate. Scientists believe that, just as in cows, methane-producing bacteria aided the digestion of sauropods by fermenting their plant food. '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,' says study leader Dr Dave Wilkinson. 'Indeed, our calculations suggest that these dinosaurs could have produced more methane than all modern sources — both natural and man-made — put together.' The key factor is the total mass of the animals which included some of the largest animals to walk the Earth, such as Diplodocus, which measured 150 feet and weighed up to 45 tons. Medium-sized sauropods weighed about 20 tons and lived in herds of up to a few tens of individuals per square kilometer so global methane emissions from the animals would have amounted to around 472 million tons per year, the scientists calculated. Sauropods alone may have been responsible for an atmospheric methane concentration of one to two parts per million (ppm), say the scientists and studies have suggested that the Earth was up to 10C (18F) warmer in the Mesozoic Era. ''The Mesozoic trend to sauropod gigantism led to the evolution of immense microbial vats unequaled in modern land animals. Methane was probably important in Mesozoic greenhouse warming. Our simple proof-of-concept model suggests greenhouse warming by sauropod megaherbivores could have been significant in sustaining warm climates.'"
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Methane Producing Dinosaurs May Have Changed Climate

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  • ...we produce more radioactive fallout than all other animals put together... Hmmmm...

    • So you're claiming that humans themselves produce radioactive fallout in a fashion comparable to how ruminants produce methane? I hope not, because that would make you appear a bigger idiot than, say, Glenn Beck or Rick Santorum, and nobody wants that, not least being Beck or Santorum themselves for stealing their limelight.

  • Big Deal (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cornwallis (1188489)

    We've got politicians doing the same thing. Tell me something new.

  • interesting (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In addition to being 18 degrees warmer, scientists also concluded the climate was 43% more stinky

  • by na1led (1030470) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:37AM (#39916633)
    The world today is very different than the world millions of years ago. There were a lot more trees back then, which provided more shade for the ground and more oxygen in the air. It's not Methane alone that is affecting the planet, it's ALL of the ABOVE!
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:58AM (#39916879)

      The world today is very different than the world millions of years ago. There were a lot more trees back then, which provided more shade for the ground and more oxygen in the air. It's not Methane alone that is affecting the planet, it's ALL of the ABOVE!

      The same can be said for any particular point in this planet's history. The author's contention is not that methane was the sole reason for global warming during that era, only that it was the dominant one. Please read the articles more carefully in the future and use common sense.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      And why it was very different is one of the most interesting problems in climate research, and the article suggests a possible solution to that.

    • Legitimate question: 65 million years ago, were trees/plants as efficient at converting carbon dioxide to Oxygen? I assume trees have evolved since then to become better at what they do.
      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:17PM (#39917099) Homepage

        Legitimate question: 65 million years ago, were trees/plants as efficient at converting carbon dioxide to Oxygen? I assume trees have evolved since then to become better at what they do.

        Once you had 'trees' you have modern photosynthesis. There might have been some qualitative differences with more surface area, etc, but the higher temps and just plain more organic matter would have likely trumped any later 'efficiencies'. Basically, once photosynthesis jumped out of the cyanobacteria (about 3+ billion years ago), the molecular mechanism has been highly conserved.

        • Thanks for the reply! Reignites my faith in Slashdot's readership. Can't say the same for the thread above. I came here looking for cute jokes about dinosaur farts and instead stumbled into an ideological clusterfuck.
      • Your understanding of evolution is off. Crocodiles have been evolutionary stagnant for millions of years. Evolution is the process of genetic mutations creating subtle variations in lifeforms. In extremely rare cases a subject has the right mutation to affect his entire species and an evolutionary change occurs. While optimization does occur, its doesnt do so in the direct manner you suggest.
        • Evolution is the process of genetic mutations creating subtle variations in lifeforms. In extremely rare cases a subject has the right mutation to affect his entire species and an evolutionary change occurs.

          Okay.... so correct me. Based on my flawed understanding, it seems to me a plant that can better process light+water+co2 would have a competitive advantage over the other plants. Maybe such a plant can grow in the shade where others cannot, since it can make more efficient use of the light it does get. It therefore follows that over a couple million years this component of selection would produce plants that are better and more efficient at converting CO2 to O2. So I'm curious where my incorrect assumption

      • Legitimate question: 65 million years ago, were trees/plants as efficient at converting carbon dioxide to Oxygen? I assume trees have evolved since then to become better at what they do.

        They must have, because there is much less CO2 in the atmosphere today than it was the case in the Mesozoic. They must work harder at extracting it today than they did back then.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          They must have, because there is much less CO2 in the atmosphere today than it was the case in the Mesozoic. They must work harder at extracting it today than they did back then.

          Trees also respire (take O2, give off CO2). The net contribution of all trees to the oxygen on the plaet is around 20% or so of all the oxygen avialable. 50% comes from plankton blooms. The rest I'm not sure where - algae perhaps.

          Trees take CO2 and produce O2 as part of photosynthesis. But at night when there isn't any going on, tre

          • That's true, but the question was the efficiency of trees at converting CO2. Provided that the metabolic rate of the plant is the same, it needs, e.g., fewer pores in the epidermis to breathe CO2 in. But I guess that this is a simple evolutionary adaptation, just create more of something instead of less of it, no biochemical breakthrough necessary. Just like with the finch beaks.
        • I suspect a lot of it to have been sequestered by algae and ending up as carbonate in sedimentary rocks, though. Lots of shallow warm oceans back then, if I recall correctly.
      • by mikael (484)

        It's a facinating topic for someone like me who only got as far as high-school Geology. First of all, you have continental drift so that all the tectonic plates were one super-continent (Pangaea).

        http://geology.com/pangea.htm [geology.com]

        Then the moon was far closer to Earth that it is now - maybe four times as large. So tides would have been far higher, which would have meant more swamp land.

        Less humans = more trees and forest

        More trees would have meant more CO2. All the oil and coal is basically fossilised di

    • What of buzz kill. I'm sitting here chuckling, then someone introduces facts.

      Also, due to the ability to facter out the Dimension of Time in Newtonian Phyisics, it would be more accurate to avoid "millions of years ago", and state, "in a previous configuration."
  • by jestill (656510) on Monday May 07, 2012 @11:43AM (#39916705) Journal
    http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(12)00329-6 [cell.com] in which the authors thank Lynn Margulis and say that she would 'savoured" fart jokes. "We thank the late Lynn Margulis for infecting us with her microbial enthusiasm — she would have savoured the notion of sauropods as walking methanogen vats.
  • So farts really are deadly! Well I, for one, refuse to fart any more.
    • by AioKits (1235070)

      So farts really are deadly! Well I, for one, refuse to fart any more.

      Only the silent ones... So if you fart, make sure it's loud and proud.

  • The problem of dinosaurs causing climate change has been around for 150 million years and we haven't fixed it yet?
    • The problem of dinosaurs causing climate change has been around for 150 million years and we haven't fixed it yet?

      Maybe somebody already did. Think about this:

      TIme travel is invented.

      First thing they do is send back a thermite grenade.

      Poof, the entire atmosphere blows up. No more big dinos.

      Problem solved until the Industrial Revolution. Now, you have to worry about:

      Somebody set us up the bomb?

  • This research stinks.

  • If I ever get that Time Machine i've been working on to work properly, I know what era im not bothering to visit now.
  • How's this:
    Since the dinosaurs never existed, because God put the bones in the ground for us to find and remind us we will one day die and go to heaven, it's easier than ever to say that climate change doesn't, and never did, exist.

    Am I doing it right?

  • You start using feet then proceed to tons (metric or US), then proceed to square kilometers...

    If you don't want to use the standard measurement system for all the measures, at least be consistent! Don't use standard units mixed up with US units. It just makes a mess.

    The vast majority of people in the world has no fucking idea how much 150 feet is!

    • by Algae_94 (2017070)
      150ft is half a football field. That's American football. I'm sure that will clear it up for you. /sarcasm

      I understand that the unit of feet is not common around the world, but do you not know what a foot is? They are the things at the end of your legs that have those 5 toes attached. If you measure it from ankle to toe, it's probably around a foot in length. That's not gonna cut it for any accurate measurement, but should help you visualize the unit of a foot.

      Then there is Google, which will gladly
  • the history of the MAFIAA extended so far back in history. Maybe they are the root cause of the current climate changes. A hypothesis as believable as many of the alternate hypothesis bruited by the alarmists.
  • So the dinosaurs caused their own global warming and everything worked out well for them. Why is everyone up in such a bunch of it now?

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday May 07, 2012 @12:31PM (#39917283)

    The problem with climate change is the rate. The dinosaurs, were here for 160 MILLION years. The amount of time it took for the type of climate change the research is suggesting (due to excrement) is hard to agree with. There could have been a lot of other naturally contributing factors in that timescale.

    The amount of climate change brought about in the past 100 years, however, is largely due to anthropogenic emissions. People consuming resources, driving, industry, cows (yes meat production and transportation as well as dairy farm methane), depletion of natural carbon sinks, irresponsible land use and the list goes on.

    So stop trying to push climate change off as a totally natural occurrence that we have nothing to worry about. The earth's climate has never remained the same for long, and yes it's had plenty of warm and cold spells in the past but never, ever have we been able to find that rate of change occurring over the course of a measly 100 years. This is the worrisome part. People need to accept that we have changed the course of climate on this planet at a rate never seen before and the earth will continue to warm unless we start changing the way we live. And soon.

    • by swillden (191260)

      never, ever have we been able to find that rate of change occurring over the course of a measly 100 years

      If it had happened, would be be able to tell? Once you get further into the past than we can examine via ice cores and such, can we tell the difference between a change that took a day (i.e. massive catastrophe), or a century, or 10,000 years? My guess is that the answer is "not usually". I'd guess that there may be some cases in which we're lucky enough to have fossil records that provide sufficiently fine resolution to distinguish, but that geologic time scales being what they are, usually we just don'

  • If it is, it doesn't matter if the estimated methane output 150 million years ago is 100% correct. Its effect on the climate would still be unpredictable.
  • I must be missing something here, because I'm struggling to figure out what the difference is between plants going through the digestive tracts of ruminants, where bacterial flora break down the carbohydrates, cellulose and hemi-cellulose into carbon dioxide, methane and other gases, and natural decay/composting, where bacterial flora break down the carbohydrates, cellulose and hemi-cellulose into carbon dioxide, methane and other gases.

    Is the ratio of gases vastly different between ruminant digestion and '

  • Well, A cow does on average releases 100 kg of Methane per year. In total this would beat out the dinosaurs by far. Evolution may not be so smart after all. But hey, we need the cows.
    The obvious solution therefore, is to simply have climate change theorists stop exhaling. If you want to help, just shut up and plant a tree.
    All this talk of increased CO2 is obviously not helping!
  • Large numbers of herbivores, are consistent across the fossil record. As are billions of plant eating insects and zillions of methane producing bacteria. Therefore the methane product should be relatively consistent, and constant element in the climate. Since the climate swings between a relatively defined temperature band, the methane is obviously accounted for in the system making this a non-story.

    What the article says is that they assumed dinosaurs produced methane. They assumed the amount of methane. Th

  • by doston (2372830) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:52PM (#39918881)
    One small thing; If these "mathematical models" have anything to do with assuming Sauropods farted proportionally as much as industrial cows, I'd politely disagree and want more proof. Sauropods ate what they were designed to eat; most cows do not. If they take a grass fed and naturally pastured cow, if not wild (not corn and grain fed and stressed to the max) and calculate based on the amount of flatulence those cows produce, I'd be more convinced. There's a reason conventional cows have to be given daily antibiotics in their "feed" and that's because they shouldn't be eating that food in the first place. Affect bowels? You bet your gassy, grain fed ass it does.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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