|Pēderdor the Fartinator. Oh yeah, check out all his majesty.|
Dinosaur farts make a lot of noise. And I'm not talking about the actual act of flatulating. I'm talking about the noise made by the media when a paper was published earlier this week. What does the paper say? In short, that sauropod dinosaurs would have annually produced around 520 metric tons of methane as a result of their digestive process. That's just about the same amount that we're currently pumping into the atmosphere today. The paper, of course, simply presents a model for how they calculated this number, and it relies heavily on a lot of variables that are assumptions at best. But what did the media say? Some reliable, unbiased news sources immediately began running stories about how dinosaurs farted themselves into extinction, despite the fact that Wilkinson and his co-publishers never talked about extinction once in the paper. This was immediately picked up by a number of other news outlets, and spread all over the internet. Thankfully, there were a number of outstanding individuals at the helm ready to combat this ridiculousness with good science reporting.
I can't say it enough: don't believe everything you read on the world wide web. And if you want to do science reporting, please, please, please check your sources. There's no sense in going around blowing more loud, hot air.
Wilkinson, D., Nisbet, E., & Ruxton, G. 2012. Could methane produced by sauropod dinosaurs have helped drive Mesozoic climate warmth? Current Biology, 22 (9) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.042