MING (CLAM)

Long Durational Natural Phenomenon

Life Span of Ming (Clam)

Duration: 507 years

Text via Wikipedia
Cover photograph by Hans Hillewaert

Ming (c. 1498 – 2006) was a nickname given to a specimen of the ocean quahog clam that was dredged off the coast of Iceland in 2006 and whose age was calculated by counting annual growth lines in the shell. Ming was the oldest individual (non-colonial) animal ever discovered whose age could be accurately determined. Originally thought to be 405 years old, the clam was later determined to be 507 years old.

The clam was named after the Ming Dynasty, in part because it had started its life during the time of the Chinese Ming dynasty. Professor Richardson said that the existence of such long-lived species could help scientists discover how some animals reach such advanced ages.

Photograph by Hans Hillewaert

Photograph by Hans Hillewaert

The clam was dredged off the northern coast of Iceland in 2006. In 2007, on the basis of counting the annual growth bands on the cross-sectional surface of the hinge region of the shell, researchers announced that the clam had been 405 years old. The research was carried out by researchers from Bangor University, including Dr. Alan Wanamaker, Dr Paul Butler, Professor James Scourse and Professor Chris Richardson. It is not known how much longer the clam might have lived had it been left in place on the ocean floor.

In 2013, another assessment of Ming's age was carried out counting bands which were measured on the sectioned surface of the outer shell margin and was confirmed by comparing the banding patterns with those on other shells that were alive at the same time; this determined the clam to have been about 507 years old when it was caught.The revised age estimate is also supported by carbon-14 dating; marine biologist Rob Witbaard commented that he considers this second assessment accurate to within 1–2 years.