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Meet An Ancient Clam Named Ming October 28, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Environment, Evolution, Ocean.
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Clams

Off the coast of Iceland, a clam has been discovered that is thought to be the longest-lived creature. Researchers from Bangor University in Wales have coined the name Ming for the ancient clam, named after the Chinese dynasty that was in power when it was born. Scientists believe this particular mollusc, which is an ocean quahog clam, is aged between 405 and 410 years old! How did they figure out Ming’s age? Well, they counted the rings on its shell! It’s mind boggling to think of an animal being over 400 years old. Just imagine if that clam had eyes to see? It would have seen a lot of changes over the years! Also, think about the fact that the clam was a mere baby when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and it was around when Shakespeare was busy at work writing his plays.

Scientists from the team at Bangor University – including the clam discoverers Paul Butler and James Scourse along with scientists Al Wanamaker and Chris Richardson – were also able to examine the clam and find out about the environment surrounding the clam through all of those years. Everything from food supply to water temperature can be figured out from the clam – so, we get an idea of what the clam’s life was like through its 400+ years.

Uh Oh, Competition

Clams 2 Previously, the Guinness Book of World Records stated that the longest-lived animal was an Arctica clam that was found in 1982 and was aged 220. So, it’s looking like researchers at Bangor University might soon be making it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

What This Means For You

So researchers have found an old clam – what’s the big deal, you ask? Well actually, the discovery of the clam can help us to unlock some of the mysteries around longevity. Scientists (and the public!) all want to know why some animals live to a ripe old age whereas others are very short-lived. It seems that the turnover rate of the clam’s cells differs from the turnover rate of cells in other animals who tend to be much shorter-lived. By understanding why it is some animals live to such incredibly old ages, we can perhaps look at ways of manipulating the aging process in humans. At the same time, don’t expect that Ming the clam is going to teach you how to live for over 400 years!

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