Daily Archives: February 11, 2014

And I Thought I Was Getting Old!

Shell of an Arctica islandica clam, the longest living animal known
Shell of an Arctica islandica clam, one of the longest living animals known

The shell above is from the Arctica islandica species of edible clam, one of the longest living species of animal on earth. Researchers captured one in 2006 near Iceland that proved to be 507 years old. Unfortunately, Ming (as they named it) died shortly after being captured.

They named it after the Ming Dynasty in China, which was in power when the clam was spawned.

So how did they come to the conclusion Ming was 507 years old? Were any of the researchers there when Ming was spawned? “As is well known, trees make rings in their trunks for each year that passes while they live. By counting these rings, scientists can tell how long a tree has lived. Clams do something similar, creating grooves in their shells for every year they live. Ming had 507 tiny grooves.” (Popular Science) They had to be tiny to get that many grooves on a shell only about two inches (five cm) high.

Wikipedia reports this species is also known by such common names as ocean quahog, Icelandic cyprine, mahogany clam, mahogany quahog, black quahog, and black clam, and is harvested commercially as a food source.

A few species of land animal can also live quite long lives, though not comparable to Ming’s:

  • Adwaita, was an Aldabra Giant Tortoise that died at the age of 255 in March 2006 in Alipore Zoo, Kolkata, India. It was recorded as the oldest terrestrial animal in the world.
  • Henry, a New Zealand tuatara, sexully active in 2009 at the age of 111.
    Henry, a New Zealand tuatara, sexully active in 2009 at the age of 111.

    Henry, a tuatara at the Southland Museum in New Zealand, is a lizard-like animal, though actually more distantly related to lizards than snakes are.  He mated (believed to be for the first time) in 2009 at the age of 111 years with an 80-year-old female and fathered 11 baby tuatara. As far as I can learn, Henry is still alive and would be 116 years old now.

  • Lin Wang, an Asian elephant died at the age of 86 in February 2003 in the Taipei Zoo.

There ave been reports of many other animals living exceptionally long lives, but most cannot be verified.