Clam Claims Title of Oldest Animal

Researchers found what may have been the oldest living animal ... a 405-year-old clam.

Paul Butler, a research student at Bangor University in Wales, says it was technically an ocean quahog, but everyone calls it a clam. He was on the boat when the clam was found.

Like tallying the age of a tree, researchers count the rings on the clam shell to determine its age. Butler says researchers also measure the rings to study climate change over time, which is how they came across the clam in the first place.

While it is not uncommon to encounter 100 and 200-year-old clams in the waters around Iceland where the researchers are working, finding a 405-year-old mollusk is rare.

Butler says the clam, which is less than six inches in size, was named Ming after the Chinese dynasty that was in power when the clam came into being.

Unfortunately, 405 is as old as Ming will get. Researchers have to open the clams in order to count their rings — a procedure that is fatal.

However, Butler says that as researchers continue their climate change work, they could encounter other clams as old or older than Ming.

Butler speaks with Alex Chadwick about the discovery.

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