Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gasless Sheep

Usually when I read about scientists trying to create new kinds of animals through selective breeding programs, I hope that means I'm one step closer to my goal of marrying a human-cocker spaniel hybrid with eagle wings. But I guess Australian scientists just aren't that creative. Instead, they're using their powers to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by breeding a sheep that burps less. Methane from livestock has long been known to contribute significantly to the world's carbon footprint, but unlike horses and cows who fart out most of their gasses, sheep mostly warm the planet through their incessant belching. Some of this has to do with their diet, but researchers think genetics might also play a role. And though a selective breeding program might seem like a frustratingly slow solution, it's much better than plan B: using the sheep's wool to knit burp-enclosing snout cozies. Build up too much gas inside the sheep's guts, and they'll explode. Lest you think that's just a shortcut to lamb chops, remember that the gas inside will still be released into the atmosphere. That's called physics. I think. More details here.