From the Sunday Times in England:
Ming the mollusc holds secret to long life
A CLAM dredged alive from the bottom of the north Atlantic has been identified by scientists as the longest-lived animal ever known.
Unfortunately, by the time its true age had been established the 3.4in clam was already dead, but the British scientists who discovered it believe it could yield valuable information to help research into ageing.
Last week, the charity Help the Aged awarded the team a £40,000 grant for a preliminary study into the mollusc’s ability to shrug off the centuries in the seabed off the coast of Iceland.
The record-breaking clam, from a species named the ocean quahog, was caught last year when scientists from the Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences were dredging the seabed north of Iceland.
“We had no idea it would be that old,” said Alan Wanamaker, one of the researchers in the team who are using the growth patterns in the molluscs’ shells to study climate variations.
The clam, which was already 200 years old when Napoleon was confirmed as first consul of France in 1802, was among a haul of 3,000 empty shells and 34 live molluscs taken to the lab.
It was only when it was examined earlier this month that its great age became apparent. By that time, however, it was too late for the clam – its flesh had been thrown away and only its shell remained.
The age of the mollusc – nicknamed Ming, after the Chinese dynasty on the throne when it began its life – can be calculated precisely by counting the layers in its shell under a microscope.
The shell only grows in summer when the water is warmer and the plankton it eats is plentiful. Each year a layer as thin as 0.1mm is laid down.
When Wanamaker cut the clam’s shell in half, he counted 405 lines. This made it 31 years older than the previous oldest animal, another ocean quahog now in a German museum.
The oldest ever…
English oak, Bowthorpe: 1,000+
Fish, lake sturgeon: 154
Mammal, bowhead whale: 130
Human, Jeanne Calment: 122
Herring gull: 49
Giant Undersea Volcano Found Off Iceland: here.
- Ming the clam: World’s oldest animal killed at 507 years old by scientists trying to tell how old it was (independent.co.uk)
- Scientists Cracked Open 507-Year-Old Clam (newser.com)
- World’s oldest animal, Ming the clam, killed at 507 years old by scientists trying … – Belfast Telegraph (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Clam confirmed as the world’s oldest creature at 507 – but scientists killed it when checking its age (mirror.co.uk)
- Scientists killed oldest living creature (smh.com.au)
- World’s oldest creature was 507…but scientists killed it (telegraph.co.uk)
- Deep-sea clam, world’s oldest creature, was 507 when captured by scientists (grindtv.com)