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Dinosaurs farted their way to extinction - scientists
Posted: 07 May 2012 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Story here.

Dinosaurs farted their way to extinction - scientists

-Prehistoric beasts pumped out s***loads of methane a year
-Enough to warm the planet and hasten their own demise
-Giant plant-eating sauropods were fingered as key culprits

DINOSAURS may have farted themselves to extinction, according to a new study from British scientists.

The researchers calculated that the prehistoric beasts pumped out more than 520 million tons (472 million tonnes) of methane a year - enough to warm the planet and hasten their own eventual demise. Until now, an asteroid strike and volcanic activity around 65 million years ago had seemed the most likely cause of their extinction. 

Giant plant-eating sauropods were fingered as the key culprits in the study, which appears in the latest edition of the journal Current Biology. An average argentinosaurus, weighing around 90 tons (82 tonnes) and measuring 140 feet (42m), chomped its way through half a ton (half a tonne) of ferns a day, producing clouds of methane as the food broke down in its gut.

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Posted: 07 May 2012 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Here’s a copy of the paper they wrote up, for anybody interested in reading it.

It looks to me as though the authors made a huge amount of assumptions in their estimates.  I’d say that this is more providing evidence that a sufficient number of such dinosaurs could have contributed to their own extinction, rather than evidence that such a thing did happen.  I know that it has been taken for granted for a long time by many paleontologists that the big sauropods had some serious impacts on the ecology, and thus probably on the atmosphere as well.

One thing I wonder about this study is that big sauropods were around since the late Triassic, so they were wandering around the planet eating the vegetation for a hundred million years or so.  Why would it only be in the last few years that they caused a problem?  Were there significantly more of them suddenly?  Did some other factors make their methane more of a danger, such as various methane sinks disappearing?  Did all of the sauropods hold it in for a hundred million years, and could no longer do so?

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Posted: 07 May 2012 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Read it, not impressed. Lots of problems. A more valid comparison may have been with modern reptile herbivores, rather than mammals (the jury is still out on the effective warm-bloodedness of the giant sauropods). The number of different species of sauropods were limited near the end of the Cretaceous (small numbers compared to ceratops and hadrosaurs). The KT boundary contains iridium worldwide, strongly implying an extraterrestrial source (the big asteroid). The Deccan traps are accurately dated to the end of the Cretaceous (unimaginably huge volcanic lava flows). Where is the fossil evidence of the methane producing bacteria? It’s not cited in the article. Even bacteria leave fossil evidence when fossilization conditions are present and we have some very, very good Cretaceous fossils. If you do not know which bacteria you’re referencing, how can you accurately predict the amount of methane produced? By there own admission, they may be off by a factor of two or more. They need a better mentor teacher! As it stands, the article is a weakly supported hypothesis, at best and a lame publicity stunt, at worst.

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