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New Study Explores Link Between Climate Change and Kangaroo Farts

Yes, kangaroo farts.

"Who, me?" Via Wikimedia Commons user Sklmsta

When it comes to climate change, flatulence is serious business. Methane, the gas released by, well, gas, accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and much of that comes from cattle involved in the meat industry. The UN reports the global livestock sector produces more greenhouse gases than transportation, and is a signaficant contributor to human-induced climate change.

But a group of scientists had noticed something peculiar—kangaroos’ farts seemed to release much less methane than those of many of their mammal brethren. The researchers wondered: If they could figure out the biological mechanism behind the kangaroos’ “green” emissions, could they somehow compel more typical livestock animals, like sheep and cows, to create environmentally friendly farts?

“The idea that kangaroos have unique gut microbes has been floating around for some time and a great deal of research has gone into discovering these apparently unique microbes,” said University of Wollongong researcher Adam Munn.

A new study published by Munn and his colleagues in the peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Biology discusses their investigation. The researchers examined the methane production of six western grey kangaroos and four red kangaroos by feeding the animals in a comfortable—but sealed—enclosure. In the end, they found that there are no special kangaroo microbes that produce limited methane, as previously hypothesized.

“Kangaroos are not mysteriously low methane-producing creatures, but herbivores with an active methane-producing microbe community,” researcher Marcus Clauss, another study author, said.

Instead, kangaroos’ metabolisms may be responsible for their less gaseous outputs, which the scientists discover are similar to those of horses. It is possible that specially breeding livestock to metabolize their own food faster could cut down on methane production—but more investigation is needed.

As The Guardian reports, the study into animal “winds” should help scientists focus on methane emission problems they can actually solve. Clauss suggests there could be livestock grazing techniques—perhaps grazing mixed species together—that could cut down on the emissions.

In the meantime, it is probably best to stop messing with kangaroos. And their farts.

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