The oldest animal found living on Earth was born in 1499 and was alive until the day scientists cracked open its shell and ended up killing it in the process in 2006.
Ming, which was an ocean quahog from the marine species Arctica islandica, was first believed to have been 402 years old. The researchers who found it on a seabed in Iceland seven years ago, along with at least 200 other clams, now state that further investigation has shown it was an incredible 507 years old at the time of its death.
The investigative group, which did not realize just how old Ming really was when they first discovered it, pried open the ancient clam to see how old the finding was, by counting the growth rings which were located inside its joint ligaments. When they opened it up, they killed it. Because Ming was so old, its rings had become compacted into tiny millimeters apart. This is because the rings located there have better protection, explained researcher Paul Butler. He also noted this oldest animal ever discovered was named after the Ming dynasty which ruled China when it was born.
With the age-revealing rings being located so close together, the scientists ended up having to count rings which were outside the clam’s shell to help be more accurate. If they had begun there in the first place, Ming might still be alive today.
The group of specialized experts may now be realizing the error of their ways, since Ming has provided invaluable information for review. The team is now convinced they have the animal’s correct age now, added Butler. The scientists did not realize the sea-murder committed, but they understand now after testing and reviewing their findings. The incident was a bit of an embarrassment yet the researchers never dreamed they would discover the oldest animal ever found. They hadn’t considered that an animal of such an extensive age even existed.
Besides just counting the rings, the scientists also performed carbon-14 testing on the clam to verify age. They were also able to detect climate changes showing up in the rings of the old, now lifeless mollusk. It had the ability to provide a large amount of information to science even after death.
Researchers believed Ming could give important facts about the changing ocean temperatures which occurred over the last 500 years and could provide some clues about prolonged existence. They measured the oxygen isotopes, which were implanted inside each of the clam’s rings to help determine the various degrees the ocean experienced during various times in Ming’s life.
However, the irony is not lost that Ming the clam was able to live through the trouble of pollution, extreme temperature fluctuation and even climate change, yet it could not endure scientific research.
The reason an ocean quahog is able to live so long is that it displays what is referred to as a insignificant senescence, which means the clam does not have any measurable decrease in survival appearances such as mobility, strength or reproductive abilities. It basically does nothing and does it for a long time. Ocean quahogs live approximately five times longer than human beings.
Ming would had celebrated its 514 birthday this year, had it not been for some very excited experts. The oldest animal on Earth was doing nothing just fine until scientists pried it open and killed it. An incident that will certainly be hard to swallow within the field.
By Kimberly Ruble