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How I Ended Up Considering Dinosaur Flatulence – Conducting Research for a Book, Never Goes As Planned.

Recently, I have been doing a fair amount of research on dinosaurs. And you might ask – why (as you bury your face in your hands), S.D., do you have a sudden interest in dinosaurs? And I would say back to you – well, it’s for my new book that I have been working on for what seems a gazillion years. The book is not specifically about dinosaurs, but they do play a part in it. So do Tardigrades – which I find so fascinating – but that is a subject for an entirely different blog post.

Because of this research, for my book, with the working title Dreaming Through Time, I have had to bone up on geological periods, stretching way back to the Pre-Cambrian period. I think my favorite periods are the Jurassic and Triassic periods, with all the dinosaurs, although the Carboniferous period was pretty cool, with the massive insects – Dragonflies measuring up to 2 feet long, and Centipedes as long as 5-6 feet.

Can you imagine bumping to insects that enormous, especially the Centipedes, with all those wiggly legs? And what I have discovered about dinosaurs is quite fascinating – well, it is to me.

First off, my book takes place in Australia (which is where I was born), and so the country is near and dear to my heart, and I always say, I am going to return there eventually. But here is the thing – Australia didn’t have the dinosaurs we normally think of, like the Sauropods, the Wooly Mammoths, the Tyronnosaurus rex, just to name a few. As far as I can tell, none of those ever roamed around, down under. Australia did however have it’s fair share of Megalafauna, such as the huge Megalania – a ferocious lizard, that is reported to have grown to massive sizes – up to 25 feet long, with a weight of 4,000 pounds.

There was also the Diprotodon – a lumbering herbivore, who is also named the Giant Wombat, with a length of up to 10 feet long, and maxing out at about 2 tons. Some sites say they were a herding animal, very much like the Elephant of today.

And the most interesting thing about these animals, were they roamed the Australian countryside as recently as 20,000 years ago – which doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you consider that the Aborigines have been around for about 60,000 years (or maybe even longer) and they would have encountered these creatures, and shared the land with them for over 40,000 years. Can you imagine?

And as always, when conducting research for a book, one ends up going down some circuitous paths to discover interesting tidbits of information, that hold no relevance at all to what should be researched. This happens to me all the time, I end up on a site, and the site mentions something that catches my attention, then I go to another site, and before I know it I have wasted hours researching stuff that is not in anyway pertinent to my book. And that is how I stumbled across information regarding calculations used to determine the amount of methane dinosaurs produced – by farting. I had not really ever considered that dinosaurs might fart. But it turns out, they probably did fart – a lot! Here is the excerpt from the article I found:

Crunching gassy numbers

They used a mathematical model to determine how much gas these plant-eating giants would have eaten. They extended data on methane production by modern mammals, based on size, up into the reaches of the sauropods.

In their calculations the researchers used middle-of-the-road numbers: 10 sauropods, each weighing 20,000 pounds (9,071 kilograms), could have roamed 1 square kilometer of lush Mesozoic habitats. “We’ve taken a middle-ground value,” Wilkinson said. “We tried to be reasonably conservative.”

They found that these 10 sauropods would have contributed 7.6 tons (6.9 tonnes) of methane every year. Expanding this number to cover the amount of land estimated to be hospitable habitat for these animals (about half the land on Earth at the time), the researchers end up with more than 550 million tons (500 million tonnes) of methane produced every year.

“I was expecting a number like that produced by cows, so the size of the number really surprised me,” Wilkinson said. “It’s way, way, way ahead of the estimated methane production by modern livestock.” (Cows produce 55 to 110 million tons (50 to 100 million tonnes) of methane each year, he estimated.)

Here is the article in its entirety – Dinosaur Farts May Have Warmed Prehistoric Earth,

Of course, my next thought is, having grown up with two scientists, is – who is funding these studies?

And then there are the thoughts that follow – were dinosaurs ruminants (did they have multiple stomachs to break all of their food down, did they chew their cud)? How did they digest all of this green stuff, and break it down into a usable energy source. Did they have gullets like birds, did they have cheeks to store the pulp in? And then I discovered there is some thought that dinosaurs might have been warm-blooded, but weren’t they reptiles? They hatched from eggs, right? Oh my gosh, why can’t I ignore these other sites, stay focused, and just research what I need to research.

And here is one more thought, that really made my brain hurt – the Earth is a closed system, which means we have been using the same water over and over for millions of years. Does that mean we are drinking water that dinosaurs pooped in?

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