Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Did someone just…Cell Press lifts embargo on farting dinosaurs paper after early coverage

with 2 comments

Cell Press has lifted the embargo early on a Current Biology study of whether dinosaur flatulence — oh, let’s just say it, dino farts — may have led to prehistoric global warming, following coverage over the weekend. The top of a press alert sent out this morning:

The following press release is no longer under embargo due to an embargo break. It is publishing in the May 8th issue of the journal Current Biology

Gaseous Emissions from Dinosaurs May Have Warmed Prehistoric Earth

-Sauropod dinosaurs could in principle have produced enough of the greenhouse gas methane to warm the climate many millions of years ago, at a time when the Earth was warm and wet. That’s according to calculations reported in the May 8th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

To view the full press release visit: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/cp-gef050112.php

The original embargo was noon Eastern today. It looks as though Jonathan Leake of the Sunday Times was first on the story sometime over the weekend, which may not surprise Embargo Watch readers.  Leake, who has never agreed to any embargoes and therefore isn’t actually breaking one, has done this several times. [See update at end about who was first.]

Don’t miss the coverage of the study. Some writers used restraint, while others decided to tell it like it was. “Dinosaur Farts Caused Jurassic Global Warming,” proclaimed Gizmodo. “Never Stand Behind a Dinosaur,” recommended Climate Central.

Yep, it’s a real gas.

Update, 8 p.m. Eastern, 5/7/12: Leake emails to say that his story only ran after he saw one on Pieuvre.ca, which went live on May 4. Another reminder for Embargo Watch to check those emissions of hot air.

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Did they say, well excussssse me?

    David Levine

    May 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm

  2. Hi Ivan – The embargo was actually broken on Friday by a Canadian science news site called pieuvre.ca. Below is a copy of the story as it appeared on pieuvre.ca on Saturday morning. I contacted the researchers and press offices at both universities on Saturday, sending them the links and other details as below to ask about the story.Our story was based on their story. Dave Wilkinson contacted me by reply, confirming the story but saying he could not give an interview.

    In a
    Politics and Economics
    Science and Technology

    Dinosaurs, responsible for a prehistoric global warming?
    Pieuvre.ca | May 4, 2012 | No Comments

    It’s not just cars, coal plants, or air conditioning that produce gas contributing to global warming, the dinosaurs of the family of sauropods would indeed have produced, in principle, sufficient methane – a powerful gas Greenhouse – to warm the Earth’s climate there are several million years, when our planet was hot and humid.

    The gigantic sauropods, recognizable by their huge size and their long necks, there were widespread 150 million years. As in cows, methane-producing microbes digest sauropods facilitated by fermenting plants they ate.

    According to Dave Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University, a simple mathematical model suggests that microbes living in these dinosaurs could produce enough methane to have a significant effect on the climate of the Mesozoic Era. “In fact, our calculations are suggests that these dinosaurs may have produced more methane than all the modern sources, natural and human, put together ” , he said.

    Wilkinson and co-author Graeme Ruxton, University of St. Andrews, studying the ecology of their sauropods when a question came to mind: if modern cows produce enough methane to attract the attention of climatologists, what about the sauropods? They decided to enlist the services of expert methane Euan Nisbet of the University of London to perform the necessary calculations.

    “Obviously, attempting to obtain an estimate for animals that are unlike anything alive is a bit of guesswork”, admitted Mr Wilkinson.

    Animal physiologists have étudité methane production in a series of modern animals to obtain equations to predict methane production for animals of different sizes. It appears from these calculations that only the total mass of the animals is essential to obtain a result.

    A medium-sized sauropod weighed about 20 tons, and these dinosaurs lived in proportions ranging from a few large adults a few tens of individuals per square kilometer.

    The researchers calculated that global emissions of methane sauropods could stand at 520 million tonnes per year, comparable to modern global emissions of methane. Before the Industrial Revolution about 150 years ago, terrestrial annual emissions of dangerous gases were about 200 million tonnes. By comparison, today ruminant animals, including cows, goats, giraffes and other, emit 50 to 100 million tons of methane per year.

    For researchers, the findings of the study are a good reminder of the importance of microbes and methane in the functioning of the climate worldwide. Like what sources of pollution are not always what you think.

    In category : Environment

    Jonathan Leake

    May 8, 2012 at 2:14 am

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