There are, at last count, almost seven billion people on this little planet, and according to data from the National Institutes of Health, each one of them passes gas, on average 14 to 23 times per day, cumulatively producing 1 to 3 liters of methane per person per day. That’s a lot of gas. In fact, there have been any number of credible, peer-reviewed studies looking at the impact of livestock flatulence as an instigator of climate change.

But a group of British scientists are taking flatulence theory to a whole new level. They claim it might not have been an asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Instead, they say the dinosaurs may very well have… farted themselves into extinction.

From this story on

Dinosaurs may have farted themselves to extinction, according to a new study from British scientists. The researchers calculated that the prehistoric beasts pumped out more than 520 million tons (472 million tonnes) of methane a year — enough to warm the planet and hasten their own eventual demise. Until now, an asteroid strike and volcanic activity around 65 million years ago had seemed the most likely cause of their extinction…Professor Graeme Ruxton from St. Andrews University in Scotland and co-researcher David Wilkinson, from Liverpool John Moores University, worked out just how much of the greenhouse gas the billions of dinosaurs would have generated during the Mesozoic era, starting 250 million years ago. “A simple mathematical model suggests that the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate,” Wilkinson said. “In fact, our calculations suggest these dinosaurs may have produced more methane than all the modern sources, natural and human, put together.”

According to the story, millions of giant, plant-eating sauropods capable of eating theoretically produced enough methane to significantly alter the Mesozoic climate over time. Scientists reckon that dinosaurs could have pumped out some 520 million tons of methane per year, compared to the 100 million tons that livestock and other farm animals currently produce.

I don’t know where to start, really. You simply can’t make this stuff up. The notorious (and profoundly strange) counter-culture writer William S. Burroughs was famous for his vastly weird, drug-induced prose, but I would argue there isn’t an illicit narcotic powerful enough to give you the creativity to top the image of an entire planet of creatures farting themselves to death. And the fart jokes…geez, the mind boggles at the potential. I was going to make a joke about chili cook-offs and bean suppers now being regulated by the EPA, or maybe talk about that one particular person we all know who, by dint of his or her prodigious output, is singlehandedly jeopardizing humanity, but honestly, I can’t. I’m suffering from fart joke circuit overload, so I’ll just hand it off to you.

Thoughts? Comments? Jokes?