The longest-lived animal is a sea clam

November 14th, 2007 - 2:59 am ICT by admin  
Scientists have dated the mollusc as having been alive since the time of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare.

However, 3.4-inch clam died by the time scientists verified its true age at 405 years.

Researchers who discovered the clam, say it could yield valuable information to help research into ageing.

Marine biologists from the Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences found the clam from the species ‘ocean quahog’, among a haul of 3,000 empty shells and 34 live molluscs while dredging the Atlantic seabed north of Iceland.

“We had no idea it would be that old,” said Alan Wanamaker, one of the researchers on the team, who is using the growth patterns on the molluscs’ shells to study climate variations.

It was only when they examined it earlier this month that they realised how old it really was.

But by that time, the clam’s flesh had been thrown away and only its shell remained.

Wanamaker said the age of the mollusc - nicknamed Ming, after the Chinese dynasty on the throne when it began its life - could be calculated precisely by counting the layers in its shell under a microscope.

He said the shell only grew in summer when the water was warmer and the plankton it ate was plentiful.

Each year a layer as thin as 0.1mm is laid down, said Wanamaker.

He said when the team cut the clam’s shell in half, they counted 405 lines, which made it 31 years older than the previous oldest animal, another ocean quahog now in a German museum, reports Times Online. (ANI)

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