A new study reveals that kangaroos may rival even cows in their methane production capabilities.
Kangaroos have been found to produce a startling amount of methane, at a level that is similar to that of man and other ruminants. According to CS Monitor, a recent study suggests while kangaroos’ methane production capabilities are not greater than sheep or cows, they are much higher than most other animals that live in Australia.
Scientists suggested years ago that eating kangaroos might be able to put a dent in global warming. By doing so, they would remain below cattle, which are the primary source of methane from the agricultural sector. When cows release gas altogether on a farm the collective methane emissions actually have a serious effect on the atmosphere. According to the recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, however, this may not be the wisest move.
According to zoologist Adam Munn, the lead author of the recent study, kangaroos are not any better methane-wise than a horse. Researchers long believed that kangaroos were low-methane animals, but they were likely just searching in the wrong places for the gas.
Munn says that most of kangaroos’ methane emissions come from their backside, whereas sheep and cattle primarily belch out the gas. Previous studies examining the methane content of kangaroo belches misled scientists to believe they were a “greener” meat option.
Livestock accounts for roughly 14.5 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, and roughly 44 percent of those gases is methane. Thirty-nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock come from the digestive process of ruminants using fermentation.
Researchers believed that the microbes inside of a kangaroo’s gut simply didn’t produce much methane as a byproduct, but Munn’s study suggests that this isn’t necessarily the case. They digest their food faster than cows and sheep, which means that microbes in their gut often face developmental setbacks. This results in less methane coming out the front end of the digestive process.
The study found that when kangaroos ate less food, their methane emissions were much greater. When there was less material to digest, the microbes inside of their guts were able to mature faster and produce more methane. While the amount of the gas produced by kangaroos is certainly variable, the study confirms that they are a larger source of methane than previously thought.
A press release outlining the study’s findings can be read here.