And, contrary to some hopeful theories, marsupial farts contain methane, found a new study. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with at least 20 times more heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide.
Cows and other ruminants are notorious for their methane-filled burps, which are not just a concern for global warming. The fact that they belch methane also mean that these animals are not using their feed to produce energy as efficiently as farmers would like.
For decades, scientists have pursued the intriguing possibility that marsupials produce little to no methane. In turn, some experts have proposed that people should switch from eating beef to eating methane-free animals. Others have wondered whether bacterial communities in kangaroo stomachs might hold the secret to creating earth-friendlier cows.
To see whether marsupials might eventually lead the way to greenhouse gas reductions, researchers working at the Copenhagen Zoo put eight red-necked wallabies into large respiration chambers. The enclosures allowed them to measure the gasses that each animal produced.
The wallabies clearly produced methane, the researchers reported in the Journal of Animal Science. When fed the same diet that cows get, wallabies produce one-quarter to one-third as much methane.
That means that marsupials don’t pollute quite as much as cows do. But kangaroos likely wont be the solution to climate change, either.
Photo credit: Corbis