November 14, 2013
But scientists who accidentally killed Ming the Mollusc, a deep sea clam dredged from the North Atlantic, have now discovered it was 100 years older than previously thought.
Following painstaking analysis, experts from Bangor University reckon the animal was born in 1499, making it 507 when it was found.
The ocean quahog was discovered off the coast of Iceland in 2006.
Unaware of its age, scientists placed it in a freezer before opening and killing it by mistake.
A quahog’s shell grows a layer every summer when the water is warmer and food plentiful.
By counting the number of rings visible on the inside of Ming’s shell, scientists initially thought it was around 400 years old.
However, after analysing the clam more closely, the experts now believe Ming, who was named after the dynasty thought to be ruling China at the time of its birth, was a century older.
‘We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then,’ Paul Butler, from Bangor University, told ScienceNordic.
The findings mean the mollusc was born seven years after Columbus discovered America.
It lay on the ocean floor throughout historical milestones such as the English Civil War, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and two world wars.