How Did the World's Oldest Creature Die?

A clam named "Ming" by marine researchers was probably born during the time of the Ming Dynasty in China in 1499. Although the world's oldest known living creature, the clam met an unfortunate end while researchers were trying to determine its age.

This particular ocean clam was one of several hundred clams collected from the Icelandic shelf in the year 2006. Although some sources report that researchers killed the clam by opening it to better count the rings that would reveal its age, others report that the clams died when they were frozen to be transported to the labs in the UK.

The researchers eventually made the best calculation by counting the rings on the outside of the clam's shell. Ming turned out to be older than they had initially assumed -- 507 years old. Ming was a member of a type of hard-shelled ocean clam called "quahog."

The marine researches from Bangor University in the UK who made the discovery were strongly criticized for causing the death of the oldest known living creature in the world. Others have taken it more lightly saying that researchers may not have known the age of the clam when they first found it, as clams remain the same size after a certain age.

It is also possible that clams even older than Ming continue to inhabit the Icelandic shelf and the North Atlantic.

More about clams:

  • It is possible to tell the age of a clam from the rings on its shell because it grows a new layer every year. So each ring represents one year.
  • There are more than 15,000 clam species in the world.
  • A soft-shelled clam can pump 10 gallons of sea water per day for oxygen. It's this pump and filtration process that makes clams living in unclean water unfit for consumption.

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