400 year old clam discovered near Iceland

Ocean quahogs

From the Sunday Times in England:

Ming the mollusc holds secret to long life

Steve Farrar

A CLAM dredged alive from the bottom of the north Atlantic has been identified by scientists as the longest-lived animal ever known.

When the mollusc was growing from a larva 405 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and William Shakespeare was writing The Merry Wives of Windsor.

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 clam far outlives other venerable animal species such as the Galapagos tortoise (the oldest known specimen of which lived for 176 years) and the bowhead whale (130 years). …

The oldest ever…

Tree, bristlecone pine [see also here], USA: 4,844 (years)

English oak, Bowthorpe: 1,000+

Fish, lake sturgeon: 154

Mammal, bowhead whale: 130

Human, Jeanne Calment: 122

Elephant: 78

Horse: 62

Japanese salamander: 55

Herring gull: 49

Bat: 32

Dog: 24

Rabbit: 18

Ecosystem of Myvatn and its midges: here.

Giant Undersea Volcano Found Off Iceland: here.

Quahog Clam Seeks Refuge in Polluted Water: here.

Quahogs in the Netherlands: here. And here. And here.

5 thoughts on “400 year old clam discovered near Iceland

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