507-Year-Old Clam is the World's Oldest Animal

Andrei Tapalaga

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The two shells of the clamNational Geographic

Humanity is forgetting what the most important resource in this world is. Time for many may not be as valuable, especially when you are surrounded by a cruel world. The average lifespan of a human is around 72 years and for some, that is more than enough, but deep down despite how difficult life gets we all want to live forever.

During recent research, we have seen a hand full of creatures that are able to live more than 200 years, almost triple that of the average human. However, knowing that there has been a creature that had lived for 5 centuries of humanity's destruction to this planet is truly a mind-blowing fact.

Considered the oldest animal in the world

Ming the clam was discovered off the coast of Iceland at a depth of 262 feet (80 meters) by a team of researchers from Bangor University. The team was looking to study the growth lines in clamshells as part of a project that would show how the climate has changed over the last millennium. If you ever looked at the shell of a clam you would be able to see lines that would give an indication of how old that clam is. Professor Chris Richardson from Bangor University has an interesting description for them:

“They are like tiny tape-recorders… sitting on the sea-bed and integrating signals about water temperature and food over time.” (Quote by Professor Chris Richardson)

The team started to count the rings and initially had reached the conclusion that the clam they have discovered was 405 years old. Its scientific name is Arctica Islandica, but it is more commonly known as Quahog. This species is actually known to live for very long periods of time, many of which had been found before were over 200 years old.

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A Quahog clam like Ming on the Ocean bedNational Museum Wales

Whilst analyzing the age of the clam, it had died the same year in 2006. It had not been very well-specified exactly what caused the death of the clam, but it was most probably triggered by having the clam taken away from its original habitat. The rough shells tell an intriguing story, but they had even more to unfold.

The real age of the Ming

In 2013, a team of researchers from around the world had picked up the shells to conduct a more thorough study. During this study, the researchers have concluded that the clam was actually 100 years older than what the previous research team has analyzed in 2006, making it 507 years old and the oldest living being known to mankind.

This means that the clam was born in 1499, the same year Pope Pius IV, leader of the Catholic Church was born. The reason why researchers named the clam “the mollusk Ming” is because during the period of time it was born the Ming Dynasty was ruling China (1368 to 1644).

Can you believe that Ming actually lived during the same time Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa? Alive during the time Shakespeare was writing his incredible novels and alive during five centuries of constant wars? This clam was so lucky for not intercepting humans for 500 years, yet the moment it did it had died. What does this tell you about our kind?

Experts from the University of Bangor speculate that this species could actually surpass 600 years of age and that there are probably even older specimens waiting to be discovered. During more current research it had been discovered that the secret to the longevity of Quahog clams is a slowed-cell replacement process.

There is a big possibility that our planet hosts even older beings that are still alive. As much as human curiosity is pushing me and the rest of humanity to find these creatures, I wish humanity will never find them, so they won’t end up like Ming.

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