The consumption of animals as food is often criticized as a contributing factor to climate change, now it appears that living animals also play a part.
Activists have often criticized cows as producers of carbon dioxide, using slogans such as “it takes a gallon of gas to make a pound of beef.” Other sources have debunked those claims, but methane has also come in for criticism, according to Jennifer Viegas of Discovery. Now a team of scientists in Australia have studied kangaroo farts and their contribution to climate change.
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Are kangaroos as bad for the environment as cows?
A new study claims that kangaroos have dangerous farts that release important amounts of methane into our atmosphere. According to the authors kangaroos do not possess so-called unique microbes that reduce the amount of methane they release.
“Kangaroos are not mysteriously low methane-producing creatures, but herbivores with an active methane-producing microbe community,” said study co-author Marcus Clauss from the University of Zurich.
The issue became the focus of study because methane is a greenhouse gas that increases global warming. The study concluded that the amount of methane per kangaroo food intake changed in the period of a few days.
“If the animals eat less, i.e. the food remains in their foregut for longer and the bacteria have more time to digest, they produce more methane per food intake,” said co-author Adam Munn from the University of Wollongong, Australia.
What can be done to reduce the amount of methane produced by kangaroos?
In order to combat the problem there are a number of potential solutions that scientists are exploring. Changes in diet and selective breeding are just two of them, with researchers hoping to breed animals that digest their food more quickly.
During this last study a group of researchers dedicated themselves to recording everything that kangaroos ate and expelled in order to work out the amount of methane produced by their farts. Their research also allowed them to determine how their digestive system could curb the gas.
The study took place at the New South Wales’ Fowlers Gap Research Station, where scientists fed the kangaroos alfalfa. Two groups were tested: one was placed on a restricted diet, the other was able to eat as much as they liked.
Horses and kangaroos produce a similar amount of methane per year
Researchers in Australia measured the amount of methane produced by the animals and their metabolic rate while also collecting their feces. The next stage involved lab analysis in Switzerland, working out the nutritional value of the kangaroo feed and feces to determine how much methane was produced per kilo of food.
The team concluded that kangaroos in fact produce around the same amount of methane per year as a horse. Previous research showed that an adult horse produces 45.5 pounds of methane per year from its farts, which is significantly less than a cow.
They also found that kangaroos who eat more food produce less methane. The team explains that due to an abundance of food, it passed through the digestive tract more quickly and thus the microbes had less time to break down plant material into methane.
“If the gas production (of kangaroos) is correlated with the amount of food ingested, however, the amount of methane is higher and therefore closer to the ruminants again,” Clauss said. “In other words, the digestion process itself in kangaroos is not all that different to a cow’s.”