Dinosaurs farted their way to extinction?

The K-T impact site in southeast Mexico as revealed by surface features and geophysical analysis

That’s what the headline says sans the question mark I put in at the end, added because I am skeptical. And while it’s certainly interesting research, it’s fair to say that header looks a teensy-tiny bit over the top, perhaps intended to grab pageviews. Which in all fairness seems to have worked!

(Fox News with my apologies) — 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.

There’s no doubt giant sauropods could break a prodigious wind, but it’s arguable that size doesn’t matter so much as quantity of gas expelled, and it’s a bit much to pin the entire K-T event on farting, especially in light off the other evidence for a large impact and increased volcanism 65 million years ago. That’s what happens when Fox News is in play.


  1. jamessweet says

    Seems like at best this could have been a contributory factor, but there seems very little doubt that the catalyst for the extinction event was the impact.

    I was thinking something similar when I was at our local museum recently looking at the mammoth exhibit, and they were talking about varying theories of why mammoths went extinct. I think all of them are plausible as contributing factors, but Occam’s Razor is telling me that the key event was almost certainly human predation. The timing is way too suspicious otherwise.

  2. StevoR says

    Its an ill wind that blows no mammals good!

    An idea that’s just blowing in the wind & a theory that doesn’t quite “smell” right! ;-)

    (Okay, ok! I’ll see myself out.)

    Yeah, its a pretty funny & out there extinction theory – which I was just thinking about sending you when I came here now!

  3. w00dview says

    OK, it is a story that mentions life that existed way before 6000 years ago AND climate change on Fox fucking News. I am not touching that comments section with a 10 metre barge pole.

  4. Garys says

    Seems like at best this could have been a contributory factor, but there seems very little doubt that the catalyst for the extinction event was the impact.

    Catalyst? that’s it! The impact must’ve ignited all that methane!


  5. slc1 says

    This is total malarkey. Methane gas, unlike CO(2) doesn’t remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time, something like 5 years.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Faux Noise actually used the word “fart” in a headline?

    Where children and women and suchlike could see?

    I hear baby Jesus wailing. This is an outrageous act of treason against Traditional Values™!

  7. Johnny Vector says

    What slc1 says. The time scale is all wrong. Large herbivores roamed the Earth for a lot more than 5 years. Even if the methane is supposed to have started a temperature rise that was amplified by CO2 feedback, even that has a time scale of tens of thousands of years, which is an eyeblink compared to the existence of large dinosaurs.

    I call sauropodshit.

  8. says

    Hardly a novel theory. I recall reading an article like ten years ago where some scientist was proposing this idea. Not sure if he had any “studies” to back his claim. I guess that there is now supposedly such a study makes this story a new one.

  9. says

    Actually, their hypothesis is quite the opposite.

    They hypothesize that all that extra methane created a warm, wet environment that was ideal for evolving larger body sizes. Therefore, you see increasing sizes of dinosaurs until the K-T extinction.

    About as far from promoting their own extinction as you can get, actually.

  10. says

    Speaking of Dino farts. What has anybody got against accupunture? The local rag is running a story about a woo meister here in town that specializes in “helping” poor people by poking needles in them, and using “cold laser” guns, which I find boring, and uninteresting due to their lack of friggin’ burning ability.

  11. Crudely Wrott says

    This made me laugh so hard that I farted a little.

    Is it warm in here or is it just me?

  12. slc1 says

    Re Kevin @ #9

    Not so. The Cretaceous herbivores were much smaller then the Jurassic herbivores. The largest Cretaceous herbivore was Triceratops, weighing in at some 12 tons. Far smaller then the Apatosaurs, Braciosaurs, etc.

    However, it is true that the carnivorous dinosaurs of the Cretaceous were larger then their antecedents of the Jurassic. Tyrannosaurs were twice the size of Allosaurs. Presumably, the carnivores farted less then the herbivores.

  13. blindrobin says

    Faux Noose fails at factual reporting again. News at 11:00. What I want to know is if the dinosaurs fartted themselves to death, why did Fred Flintsotne and friends survive and where did the get their bronto burgers so they wouldn’t starve. Poor Dino…

  14. den1s says

    @ #7 Johnny Vector

    Hey, 5 years in young earth creationist’s time is more than for realz time; look what their god did in 5 days, or was it 6.

  15. sunsangnim says

    Global warming caused the biblical flood and killed the dinosaurs. Fundie heads asplode.

  16. wholething says

    I don’t buy the whole cow/dinosaur farts cause global warming. AIUI, the bacteria in the gut of the animal breaks down the plant material which releases methane, CO2, and H2O.

    If the plant is not eaten by an animal, it dies and is broken down by bacteria using the same chemistry toolkit that the gut bacteria use, so they produce roughly the same amount of methane, CO2, and H2O. Whether the plant is eaten or dies of natural causes, a space is opened for another plant to grow and consume the CO2 produced by the death of the previous plant plus the methane produced by a plant several years before after it has degraded into CO2.

    The circle of life is carbon neutral.

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