Ming, the 507 Year Old Clam
(the shells of Ming, the 507 year old clam)
Ming (1499~2006) was a 507 year old ocean quahog clam found off the coast of Iceland in 2006. With its remarkable lifespan of more than 5 centuries, Ming was the oldest recorded non-colonial animal ever at the time of its founding.
Researchers discovered Ming on the northern coast of Ireland in 2006, and in 2007, the clam’s age was determined to be 405 years old based on the age-determining technique of counting the number of growth rings on the clam’s shell (If you want, you can check out our clam dissection video here, where we detail the growth rings on a clam). It was then that Ming was given the name ‘Ming,’ by the Sunday Times journalists, as a 405 year old clam would have been born during the Chinese Ming dynasty. Unfortunately, during the age-determining process, British researchers at Bangor University accidentally killed the clam by trying to open it, thus preventing us from ever knowing how old the clam could’ve lived before a natural death.
In 2013, a new count of the rings on the clam’s shells revised Ming’s age at the time of death (2006) to ~507 years old (with a 1-2 years margin of error). This new age count was also backed by carbon-14 dating.
Now, you may be wondering why clams live so long. Scientists hypothesize that these bivalves’ ability to thrive for centuries may be due to the fact that they developed countermeasures against the destructive aging process. However, we do not yet know what exactly these defenses are. Researchers hope that by looking at the clams as biological models of successful resistance against the damages of aging, we can better understand how aging works in other organisms such as humans.