November 15, 2013
Scientists Kill World’s Oldest Creature While Verifying Its Age
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The good news is that scientists confirmed that a clam known as “Ming” was not only the world’s oldest creature, but was actually 102 years older than they previously believed. The bad news is that they killed it during the initial age verification back in 2006.
There were only two problems with that analysis. One, it turns out that they instantly killed the creature by opening its shell while attempting to determining its age. Two, it turns out that they counted wrong. Researchers revisited the original calculations and found that Ming was actually 507 years old when it died.
“We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then. But we are absolutely certain that we’ve got the right age now,” Dr. Paul Butler, a research lecturer in sclerochronology and scleroclimatology at Bangor University, told The Mirror.
“The nice thing about these shells is that they have distinct annual growth lines, so we can accurately date the shell material. That’s just the same as what archaeologists do when they use tree rings in dead wood to work out the dates of old buildings,” he added.
Either way, it easily surpassed the previous unofficial record-holder, a 374-year-old Icelandic clam housed in a German museum, Kahn said.
Ming’s discovery caught the attention of the UK organization Help The Aged, which reportedly offered the university a grant of nearly $65,000 to study how the mollusk had survived so long, The Mirror added. After all, it was born when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne of England.
Experts are fairly confident that the researchers have the late clam’s correct age now.
Rob Witbaard, a marine biologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research who was not involved in the most recent study, told CBS News that the age “has been confirmed with a variety of methods, including geochemical methods such as the carbon-14 method. So I am very confident that they have now determined the right age. If there is any error, it can only be one or two years.”
Oh, and for those interested, Kahn reports that “no information was given as to which scientist murdered the former record holder.”