Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Caused Dinosaurs to Become Extinct?

            There are many people who do jobs that I would not care to do. I’m not talking about jobs collecting trash, serving people at McDonald’s, or digging ditches; those are decent jobs, and I would (and have) gratefully accept a paycheck for doing them. Heck, I taught seventh grade for years and I know many people who would rather be shot out of a circus cannon than spend an hour in a seventh grade classroom. (Teaching middle school is a calling, not a job.)

            Anyway, I was reading an article about dinosaurs today when it occurred to me that the person doing the research had a job that I would not want. I like reading about dinosaur research, but quite frankly, spending time calculating the effect of dinosaur flatulence on global warming seems horribly boring.

            It turns out that plant-eating dinosaurs, like modern cows and sheep, produced methane gas as part of their normal digestive process. Dave Wilkinsen, that unfortunate researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, stated that “our calculations suggest that these dinosaurs could have produced more methane than all modern sources – both natural and man-made – put together." And this is important because…“the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate."

            This poor researcher will most likely spend the next year explaining his findings in scientific journals. He’ll lecture about dinosaur flatulence at conferences and, if his significant other is truly unlucky, at dinner parties. Then he’ll begin the next step in his calculations to try to solve the question that all of us are asking, namely: “Did dinosaurs fart their way to extinction?”

          I'm glad that researchers who care are looking into this matter. Someone probably should. As for me, I'm just as glad to have a job more suited to my talents than measuring dinosaur emissions. 

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