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Grasshopper Farts Are Driving Climate Change?!

Apr 01, 2015 04:28 PM EDT
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Passing gas: it's a natural part of bodily function, and not one that's ever associated with doomsday scenarios. However, experts are finding that invasive insects are pumping out more gas than usual, helping facilitate warming in places that otherwise couldn't support them.

Growing up to four inches (10 cm) in length, the vagrant grasshopper (Schistocerca nitens), also known as the gray bird grasshopper, is a pretty big bug. It should be no surprise, then, that it can pass some pretty impressive gas.

"Fart jokes aside, this thing is practically a smokestack," Arnulf Fälschung, a Swiss entomologist currently working with the University of Manitoba, recently told Nature World News (NWN).

"It can pump out some particularly noxious fumes laden with methane - arguably the most powerful greenhouse gas out there," he said. "After one sample let out such a powerful puff... I had to start wearing a mask in the lab."

The entomologist explained that the vagrant grasshopper is an infamous invader, first swarming the Hawaiian islands back in 2004, and now showing up each spring in parts of Canada and the northern US that should absolutely not be seeing them.

And that may have to do with the fact that these regions are warming, with record melt of permafrost in the Arctic softening ecosystems for apocalyptic swarms of farting locusts to move in. (Scroll to read on...)

"And what's fascinating is that their methane emissions may have been what drove this change," Fälschung pressed.

As detailed in a study published in the journal Insects and Climate, the researcher and his colleagues closely poured over two decades of data concerning carbon emissions over the Hawaiian islands. What they found was that while local CO2 emissions have remained relatively low, methane emissions shot up by a stunning 34 percent since 2004 - when the grasshoppers first invaded.

"[The grasshoppers] started tearing through local agriculture... unfamiliar bean crops probably wreaked havoc on their digestion systems," Fälschung said.

He went on to explain that most insects pass gas just like you or I, emitting methane as a by-product of body-residing microbes breaking down food. The research team is arguing that Hawaii's common crops mixed with the vagrant's microbiome was simply an unexpected recipe for disaster, creating a jaw-dropping amount of methane.

And thanks to changing atmospheric winds, this wound up bringing dryer and hotter weather patterns to the Northern Hemisphere.

"These bugs don't know enough about climate change to have done this on purpose," Fälschung reassured NWN.

"It's just like most people don't know enough to realize I'm lying through my teeth," the pseudo-scientist added. "Although, I have to admit, this is a wonderful way to see how many people actually read to the end of an article before liking or sharing."

The imaginary researcher and his team hope to collaborate in the future with experts investigating koalas in Australia which can mysteriously belch the entire French alphabet backwards.

Have a safe and happy April Fool's Day, everyone.

For some REAL nature science stories and general news, please see our other headlines or visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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