Flatulent Kangaroos Could Save Planet

Flatulent kangaroos could save the planet.

Australian scientists plan to isolate, and possibly transfer to other species, the 'roos digestive bacteria, which unusually produce almost none of the potent greenhouse gas methane.

One of the primary sources of atmospheric methane is the digestive tracts of millions of cows, sheep, pigs and, um, humans. It's the byproduct of trillions of bacteria, properly called digestive flora, without which no mammal could get nutrition from starches and plant fibers.

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With each belch and colonic gaseous emission, large plant-eating livestock contribute a bit more to global warming.

"Fourteen percent of [greenhouse-gas] emissions from all sources in Australia is from enteric methane from cattle and sheep," Queensland state government research scientist Athol Klieve told Agence France-Presse. "And if you look at another country such as New Zealand, which has got a much higher agricultural base, they're actually up around 50 percent."

But kangaroos, which eat plenty of plants, appear to have different digestive flora, emitting almost no methane. If those bacteria could be substituted for those of cows and sheep, it could drastically cut down on the amounts of methane pumped into the atmosphere.

• Click here to read the full report from Agence France-Presse.