The discovery that a bacterial species in the Australian Tammar wallaby gut is responsible for keeping the animal's methane emissions relatively low suggests a potential new strategy may exist to try to reduce methane emissions from livestock, according to a new study.
Globally, livestock are the largest source of methane from human-related activities, and are the third-largest source of this greenhouse gas in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Wallabies and other marsupials - mammals like the kangaroo that develop their offspring in a pouch - are dependent on microbes to support their digestive system, similar to livestock such as cows, sheep and goats, but Tammar wallabies are known to release about 80% less methane gas per unit of digestible energy intake than do livestock animals.
Scientists have used DNA sequence data to devise a way to isolate and grow cultures of a dominant bacterial species from the Tammar wallaby gut and test its characteristics. The analysis confirmed that this bacterium would contribute to a digestion process that produces low levels of methane. Using this information, scientists hope to devise a way to augment the microbial mix in livestock animals' digestive systems and therefore reduce their methane emissions.
Source: Ohio State University