World’s Oldest Animal

November 14, 2013 by  

World’s Oldest Animal, Scientists date world’s oldest animal at 507 years old – after they accidentally kill it
Researchers at Bangor University have identified identified the world’s oldest animal: a 507-year-old bivalve mollusc, or ocean quahog, named Ming.

Alas, although Ming survived countless wars and fashion trends, it could not survive the research process: it died when scientists pried it open to discover its age.

Ming was located in 2006 as part of an expedition to Iceland. Researchers, unaware of its age or significance, accidentally killed the animal when opening it to investigate its age by literally counting its rings. At the time, scientists pegged Ming’s age at 405, but the most recent studies indicate that Ming was, in fact, 507 years old.

The discrepancy came from differences in the types of counting. Scientists have established that ocean quahogs can be dated by counting the number of rings in its shell. It’s long been presumed that the most accurate dating comes from counting the rings in the interior of the shell, an area protected by ligaments. But because Ming was so old, the rings were compacted into a few millimetres.

Scientists decided to undertake a more accurate count by totaling up the rings on the outside of the shell, and carbon-14 testing confirmed that count. Scientists can also see climate changes evidenced in the rings and can use the oxygen isotopes embedded in the rings to determine the ocean temperatures during various times in Ming’s life.

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