Stories tagged clams

Jan
26
2009

Biologists are using clams to identify and clean up river pollutants.

Clams are filter-feeders, meaning they gather water into their shells, eat any food they find in that water, and then release the water back into the environment. The clam inadvertently filters more than just their food out of the water. Other material suspended in the water, such as toxins and pollutants, can accumulate in the clams.

Biologists in Washington, DC, along with help from high schoolers, released clams downstream from industrial parks and highways. The clams absorbed any lurking pollutants and then the scientists could identify the kinds and quantities of pollutants in the water. This process can be quite costly, but the clams offer an alternative method.

The ultimate goal is to be able to trace the pollutants back to their sources. From there, the cleanup process can begin.

Oct
30
2007

As cold as a bucket of clams: A quahog from Iceland claims the title as the world's oldest living animal. Photo by Cool Librarian from Flickr.com
As cold as a bucket of clams: A quahog from Iceland claims the title as the world's oldest living animal. Photo by Cool Librarian from Flickr.com

Clam diggers in Iceland recently pulled up a specimen that proved to be the oldest living animal on Earth. Or, more accurately, had been—the clam is now deceased.

Scientists at Bangor University in Wales counted the age rings on the clam and estimate it to have been up to 410 years old. That’s almost 200 years older than the previous record-holder.

Born in 1607, the clam was a contemporary of Shakespeare, although there is no evidence the two ever met. Researchers nicknamed the clam “Ming,” in honor of the Chinese dynasty that was in power when the clam was born.

Old specimens like this help scientists reconstruct the Earth’s past. Growth rings will be thick or narrow, depending on factors such as water temperature and food supply. Chris Richardson, a professor at the University, compared the growth rings to a tape recorder, faithfully recording environmental conditions.

The clam might also shed light on the science of aging. Scientists theorize that animals that live to extremely old ages have cells that function in ways different from our own. Understanding those differences could help medicine combat the effects of aging in humans.