Dinosaurs could have released enough methane gas to warm the prehistoric Earth, researchers in the United Kingdom say.
According to scientists, the gassy methane emissions from large plant-eating dinosaurs known as sauropods would have been equal to the greenhouse gases currently produced by natural and man-made sources.
The researchers say dinosaurs like Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus (once known as Brontosaurus) may have digested their food much the way modern day herbivores like cattle do -- and like cows, would have released methane gas as a result.
But these giants were much, much, MUCH larger than cows. LiveScience reports the scientists' calculations put 550 million tons of methane being produced by these dinosaurs every year.
"The thing about methane is it is an extremely potent greenhouse gas," says lead researcher David Wilkinson. If the levels were anywhere near where their calculations indicate, he said, it very well could have been one of many factors that made that era warmer and wetter than modern times.
The study is detailed in the May 7 issue of the journal Current Biology.
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