Stories tagged quahog

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.