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ScienceShot: Why Wallabies Don't Pass Methane Gas

30 June 2011 2:00 pm
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Craig Dingle/iStockphoto

When cows digest food, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but when kangaroos chow down, their digestive tract is relatively methane-free. The difference comes down to one group of bacteria, new research suggests. Scientists studying wallabies, a smaller relative of kangaroos, isolated gut bacteria that they have now classified as Wallaby Group 1 (WG-1). When the researchers grew the bacteria in a nutrient broth, they found that the microbes produce a compound called succinate instead of methane as an end product of digestion. As succinate is not a greenhouse gas, the scientists hope that further studies on the WG-1 bacteria will help researchers find a way to modify livestock to produce less gas—methane gas, that is.

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