Stories tagged oldest

Aug
11
2008

Henry: His own bad self.
Henry: His own bad self.Courtesy KeresH
We live in exciting times, Buzzketeers, exciting times! Never before has the population of the world been so thrilled to see a 111-year-old get it on.

I’m talking sex here, folks. Sex.

Yes, the world has carefully peeled its eyeballs from now-damp television screens across every continent, forgoing the stale gender isolation that is the summer Olympics for the steamy, primordial, and sexy land of iniquity we call Middle Earth. I mean New Zealand.

This feisty Casanova had everything going against him and his love live. Aside from his formidable age, he only recently got out of 17 years of solitary confinement, a punishment given for an aggression problem that culminated in him giving a serious bite to a lady—the very lady that would become his baby’s momma all these years later! Why do we love the ones that hurt us the most? On top of all this, the centenarian, name o’ Henry, has scaly lizard skin, and was born with a third eye. Also, he had a tumor on his butt until the recent past. And he’s a lizard, which can’t help things.

Or not a lizard, precisely, but a tuatara. Tuatara made an appearance on Science Buzz not long ago, regarding their status as not-exactly-lizards, and their potential inability to survive in our spicy hot new world.

Well, Henry the tuatara and his 70-something lady friend, Mildred, are doing their best to prove us wrong (about the viability thing, not the lizard thing). Henry, never before observed mating in his long life, is now the father of 11 eggs. How many of these eggs actually hatch remains to be seen, of course. Whether they yield a healthy ratio of males-to-females (see the Buzz link above) may be up in the air too, although the fact that they were laid in captivity probably means that they’re being carefully incubated in the appropriate temperature range for developing embryos of both sexes.

Oh, gold medals all around!

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.

Mar
08
2007

This artifact was the first of the about 50 found near Walker, Minnesota.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
This artifact was the first of the about 50 found near Walker, Minnesota.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
During a routine survey of a road construction site near Walker, Minnesota in 2005, archeologists discovered a flake of stone that appeared to have been intentionally chipped from a larger rock. Over the next couple of months digging continued at the site, and some 50 artifacts, thought to possibly be crude stone tools used for chopping, cutting, or scraping, were found.

Initial studies on the stones indicate they are between 13,000 and 15,000 years old. This is potentially significant, as humans are not thought to have populated the Americas until 9,000 years ago.

(Listen to an MPR story on the discovery from January.)

Could humans have lived in Minnesota 13,000 years ago?

If the artifacts are 13,000 year old stone tools, it would be the first indication that humans lived in North America during the Pleistocene – from 1.8 million years ago to 11,500 years ago. Some researchers have suggested that the part of Minnesota where these artifacts were found may have been an "oasis" at the time—an area free of ice cover, with an access route to the southeast making human habitation possible.

Features of this stone might suggest that it could have been a crude knife.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
Features of this stone might suggest that it could have been a crude knife.: Photo courtesy Leech Lake Heritage Sites Program.
Not everyone agrees

Not everyone who has had a chance to study the artifacts agrees that they are ancient stone tools. Several Minnesota state archeologists argue the stones are the result of natural causes such as glacial movement and flowing water. They argue that Minnesota 13,000 years would have been extremely cold and covered by glaciers and therefore too inhospitable a location for humans to live, and that insufficient time has been spent accurately dating the artifacts.

This has not changed the minds of the archaeologists who originally made the finds. They argue that the analysis of the artifacts is still in too early of a stage to make a definitive decision on their authenticity. They plan further excavation at the site this summer and hope to uncover more artifacts to further solidify their claim.

(Listen to an MPR story from February on whether the artifacts are in fact stone tools.)

Sep
29
2006

New tallest tree: photo by Art Oglesby
New tallest tree: photo by Art Oglesby

New record tallest tree

Not one, but three giant redwood trees have been found in Redwood National Forest that are taller than former "tallest tree in the world". An expansion of the Redwood National Park's boundary just 30 years ago saved these trees from being harvested.

The tallest of the three new finds, a redwood named Hyperion, measures 378.1 feet.(edit:379.1 feet) Next in line, Helios, stands at 376.3 feet; Icarus, the third, reaches 371.2 feet. San Francisco Chronicle

Stratosphere Giant, found in August 2000 in nearby Humboldt Redwoods State Park, was the previous champion at 370 feet.

The largest tree is a sequoia

Genral Sherman is the largest tree in the world. It, too, is in California in Giants Forest in Sequoia National Park.

In January of 2006 the largest branch on the tree, seen most commonly in older photos as an "L" or "golf club" shape protruding from about 1/4th down the trunk, broke off. No one was present for the incident, but the branch, which had a diameter of over 2 m (6 feet) and a length of over 30 m (100 feet), bigger than most trees, smashed part of the enclosing fence and cratered the walkway pavement surrounding the sequoia.

The oldest tree is a bristlecone pine

Methuselah is the name of the world's oldest living tree. It is located in the Inyo National Forest in California. Methuselah is over 4750 years old. An older living tree known as the martyr tree was tragically cut down by a researcher before laws protecting trees existed.

Aug
22
2005

It's older than the plague, typhoid fever, or malaria. It's claimed the lives of literary greats John Keats, Emily Bronte, and Franz Kafka, and kills more than three million people around the world each year by attacking the lungs and producing symptoms like coughing, loss of appetite, fever, and night sweats. Tuberculosis, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is also re-emerging in areas like Eastern Europe, southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV is on the rise. Scientists now believe that TB may actually date back as far as three-million years, with current strains descended from a more ancient bacterial species that emerged in Africa. "Tuberculosis. . . might have affected early hominids," says researcher Veronique Vincent of the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Up until this point, scientists believed that TB arose a few tens of thousands of years ago and spread around the world. However, molecular analysis of a strain of TB from East Africa suggests that the disease is much, much older. Researchers hope this information will aid in the development of new treatments; Mycobacterium tuberculosis is rapidly growing resistant to the drugs currently used to treat it.