The world's oldest animal has been found by scientists, having lived for 507 years. The elderly clam was found in 2006 and affectionately named Ming by researchers at Bangor University. Unfortunately, poor Ming was killed when scientists opened the clam before realizing the significance of their discovery. Previously thought to be a mere 405-years-old, new evidence says Ming was actually 507 when he was found.
Researchers discovered the world's oldest animal in Iceland as part of a scientific expedition, according to Yahoo! News. Ming was a bivalve mollusk, or as they're also known, an ocean quahog. When news of the discovery first circulated, many people contacted the researchers to express their anger that the world's oldest animal had been killed. As one of the researchers explains, "We had no idea it was that old before it was too late."
Ming was opened to check its age by counting the rings that formed on its shell. Much like the rings that can be counted on tree stumps to determine its age, rings form on ocean quahogs' shells. The rings form on both the inside and outside, but sometimes the outer rings are worn down and difficult to count. As the world's oldest animal, Ming's shell rings had compacted, inside and out.
This made counting difficult and led to the first conclusion that Ming was 405. Since then, researchers have run carbon-14 dating tests to discover Ming's true age, 507. Oxygen isotope tests on the shell also show ocean temperatures as they changed over Ming's life, reflecting climate fluctuations.
Before Ming, the title of world's oldest animal was held by another clam from Iceland, believed to be 374-years-old, reports Mirror. These clams typically live up to five times as long as humans do. But, is Ming an unusual case? Bangor University researcher Paul Butler believes there are likely more clams as old or older than Ming. He points out that thousands of ocean quahogs are caught commercially every year. It would not be impossible for fishermen to have caught an old clam like Ming.
The world's oldest animal is named for the Ming Dynasty, having been born in 1499 along the height of Chinese power.