Ming (clam)

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Ming clam shell WG061294R.jpg
Left valve of the shell of Ming, a clam that was 507 years old when captured
Born c. 1499
Died 2006
Off the coast of Iceland

Ming (c. 1499 – 2006) was a nickname given to a specimen of the ocean quahog clam (Arctica islandica, family Veneridae), that was dredged off the coast of Iceland in 2006 and whose age was calculated by counting annual growth lines in the shell. Ming was the oldest individual (non-colonial) animal ever discovered whose age could be accurately determined.[1][2][3] Originally thought to be 405 years old, Ming was later determined to be 507 years old.

Original discovery[edit]

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.[4] The research was carried out by researchers from Bangor University, including Dr. Alan Wanamaker, Dr. Paul Butler, Professor James Scourse and Professor Chris Richardson. It is not known how much longer Ming might have lived had it been left in place on the ocean floor.[5][6][2]

It was named after the Ming dynasty, during which it was born.[1] Professor Richardson said that the existence of such long-lived species could help scientists discover how some animals reach such advanced ages.[6]

Revision of age[edit]

In 2013, another assessment of Ming's age was carried out counting bands which were measured on the sectioned surface of the outer shell margin[7] and was confirmed by comparing the banding patterns with those on other shells that were alive at the same time; this determined Ming was 507 years old when it was caught.[3][8] 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.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Farrar, Steve (2007-10-28). "Ming the mollusc holds secret to long life". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  2. ^ a b Alleyne, Richard (2007-10-28). "Clam, 405, is oldest animal ever". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  3. ^ a b Butler, Paul G.; Wanamaker, Alan D.; Scourse, James D.; Richardson, Christopher A.; Reynolds, David J. (2013). "Variability of marine climate on the North Icelandic Shelf in a 1357-year proxy archive based on growth increments in the bivalve Arctica islandica". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 373: 141–151. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.01.016. 
  4. ^ Wanamaker AD et al. (2008) Very long-lived mollusks confirm 17th century AD tephra-based radiocarbon reservoir ages for north Icelandic shelf waters. Radiocarbon 50(3): 399-412
  5. ^ "405-yr-old clam dredged from the deep". ABC News. 2007-10-29. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  6. ^ a b "Ming the clam is oldest mollusc". BBC News. 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  7. ^ 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" (PDF). The Holocene. 16 (7): 967. doi:10.1177/0959683606hl987rp. 
  8. ^ a b Lise Brix (2013-11-06). "New record: World's oldest animal is 507 years old". Sciencenordic. Archived from the original on 2013-11-15. Retrieved 2013-11-14.