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New research reveals Ming the Mollusk actually 100 years older than thought

Posted November 15, 2013
New research reveals Ming the Mollusk actually 100 years older than thought
Arctica Islandica
A team of international researchers has, after conducting a new, more thorough study of the clam known as Ming the Mollusk, found it to be 507 years old, making it 102 years older than was originally thought.

The saga of the famous clam began back in 2006 when climate researchers pulled the ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) from the bottom of the sea near Iceland. Scientists have known for quite some time that a clam’s age can be found by counting the bands in its shell—a new one is grown each summer. The original count was 405, which meant that the clam was the oldest organism ever found. Now, it appears that the original researchers made some mistakes—a new count reveals that the clam actually has 507 bands, which means it was born in 1499.

The age of the clam caused great excitement in the press at the time, leading the research team to christen the mollusk Ming, after the Chinese dynasty. Unfortunately, the same research team split the clam open to get a look inside, killing it, thus, it has not aged since. But still, the record remains.

This time around, the researchers used a variety of techniques to verify the clam’s age. In addition to counting the bands on its outside and near the ligaments where the shells of the two halves join, the team used carbon-14 dating and even compared changes in more recent growth bands with other organisms that lived in the same environment. They are confident they have the age right this time.

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