What we didn't expect to encounter as we made our way through Lampich's smelly piece, though, was that unlike other ruminants, kangaroo farts have been known to contain about 80% less methane than cows. Methane is the most potent of greenhouse gases (GHG) and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the total emission from global livestock is 7.1 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, which represents 14.5% of all anthropogenic GEG emissions. That being said, the amount of methane in kangaroo farts (or lack there of, for that matter) is impressive.
Lampich talks about microbiologist Scott Godwin of Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Brisbane, Austrailia, and his colleagues, who investigated the microbes in kangaroos' digestive tracts and published their findings in the March 13 issue of The ISME Journal.
While most animals create carbon dioxide and hydrogen when they digest their food, animals like cows and sheep have microbes in their guts called methanogens that create methane. After looking at three wild eastern gray kangaroos, Godwin and his team found some methane-making microbes in the kangaroos' samples, but they also found other active microbes including acetogens. These microbes take in carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce acetate, which becomes a source of energy for the kangaroos.
Now that researchers know why kangaroos produce less methane, they need to figure out if implanting kangaroo microbes, which included the acetogens, into livestock would reduce their methane production. This would help reduce global warming!
Check out Lampich's full article, complete with a vocabulary list and factoids, along with the rest of the most recent issue of Headline Discoveries here.