When it comes to climate change, cow farts–not people farts–are the problem: Cow emissions are actually one of the major causes of our terrible weather. Since we don’t want to stop drinking milk or eating beef, can we find a way to reduce these methane emissions?
The discovery that a bacteria in the Australian wallaby gut is responsible for keeping that animal’s methane emissions relatively low suggests a potential new strategy to try to reduce methane emissions from livestock, which are the world’s largest source of methane from human-related activities, and the third-largest source of this greenhouse gas in the United States, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Marsupials like wallabies and kangaroos are mammals that develop their offspring in a pouch. They depend on microbes to support their digestive system, and in this way, they’re similar to livestock such as cows, sheep and goats. But wallabies are different in one important way: They release about 80% LESS methane gas per unit of digestible energy than do livestock animals.
Scientists have used DNA sequence data to devise a way to isolate and grow cultures of the dominant bacterial species from the wallaby gut and test its characteristics. The analysis confirmed that this bacterium would contribute to a digestion process that produces low levels of methane. Now scientists want to find a way to get this bacteria into the guts of US livestock (a much better idea than feeding them antibiotics!)
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