Left valve of the shell of Hafrún/Ming, a clam that was 507 years old when captured
|Died||2006 (aged 506–507)|
Off the coast of Iceland
Hafrún (c. 1499–2006) is a nickname given to a specimen of the ocean quahog clam (Arctica islandica, family Arcticidae), that was dredged off the coast of Iceland in 2006 and whose age was calculated by counting annual growth lines in the shell. Hafrún was the oldest individual (non-colonial) animal ever discovered whose age could be accurately determined. Originally thought to be 405 years old, Hafrún was later determined to be 507 years old.
The clam was initially named Ming by Sunday Times journalists, in reference to the Ming dynasty, during which it was born. Later, the Icelandic researchers on the cruise which discovered the clam named it Hafrún (a woman's name which translates roughly as "the mystery of the ocean"; taken from haf, "ocean", and rún, "mystery"). The actual sex of the clam, however, is unknown, as its reproductive state was recorded as "spent."
Hafrún/Ming 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 was 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. In the process Hafrún/Ming died.
Professor Richardson said that the existence of such long-lived species could help scientists discover how some animals reach such advanced ages.
The mollusc’s long life came to an end in 2006 when the British researchers – unaware of the animal’s impressive age – opened up its shell to examine it.
Revision of age
In 2013, another assessment of the age of Hafrún/Ming was carried out counting bands which were measured on the sectioned surface of the outer shell margin and this was verified by comparing the banding patterns with those on other shells that were alive at the same time; this confirmed that Hafrún/Ming was 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.
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- Scourse, J.; Richardson, C.; Forsythe, G.; Harris, I.; Heinemeier, J.; Fraser, N.; Briffa, K.; Jones, P. (2006). "First cross-matched floating chronology from the marine fossil record: Data from growth lines of the long-lived bivalve mollusc Arctica islandica". The Holocene. 16 (7): 967. doi:10.1177/0959683606hl987rp.