Cows Aren't the Only Methane Producers: Kanagaroo Farts Also Contribute to Warming

First Posted: Nov 05, 2015 08:15 AM EST

Animals, such as cows, can produce enough methane to impact our Earth's atmosphere. Now, researchers have found that another animal may do the same: the kangaroo.

Currently, about 20 percent of the world's methane emissions stem from ruminants. If this gas is released into the atmosphere, it aggravates the greenhouse effect and aids global warming. Previous studies revealed that ruminants, which include cows and sheep, release more methane into the environment than kangaroos, even though kangaroos also possess a foregut that break down the plant fibers and produce methane.

In this latest study, the researchers examined previous assumptions from a different angle; they measured how much methane kangaroos emit per food intake.

"If you consider the absolute volume of methane per body size, kangaroos produce about as much as horses or ostriches-significantly less than cows," said Marcus Clauss, one of the researchers, in a news release. "If the gas production is correlated with the amount of food ingested, however, the amount of methane is higher and therefore closer to the ruminants again. In other words, the digestion process itself in kangaroos is not all that different to a cow's."

The researchers also discovered that the amount of methane per food intake can vary in the space of a few days. If the animals eat less, for example, the food remains in their foregut for longer and the bacteria have more time to digest. The bacteria then produce more methane per food intake.

The latest findings reveal that the amount of methane produced varies more on conditions rather than the differences between animals.

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

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