In autumn 2006 a team of researchers went on an expedition to Iceland, where they discovered something that made the headlines across the world. The discovery even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
One of the Arctica islandica bivalve molluscs, also known as ocean quahogs, that the researchers picked up from the Icelandic seabed turned out to be around 405 years old, and thus the world’s oldest animal.
However, after taking a closer look at the old mollusc using more refined methods, the researchers found that the animal is actually 100 years older than they thought. The new estimate says that the mollusc is actually 507 years old:
“We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hastingly publishing our findings back then. But we are absolutely certain that we’ve got the right age now,” ocean scientist Paul Butler, who researches into the A. islandica at Bangor University in Wales, tells ScienceNordic….
The mollusc’s 507-year-long life came to an abrupt end in 2006 when the British researchers – unaware of the animal’s impressive age – opened up its shell to put it under scientific scrutiny.
After its death, the mollusc was given the name Ming – after the Chinese Ming dynasty, which was in power when the animal was born.
Although Ming has turned out to be a full century older than first thought, the name is still relevant, as the Ming dynasty lasted for almost 300 years (1368-1644)….
According to one of the world’s leading mollusc researchers, there is a general agreement within research circles that 507 years is Ming’s correct age: “The age has been confirmed with a variety of methods, including geochemical methods such as the carbon-14 method. So I am very confident that they have now determined the right age. If there is any error, it can only be one or two years,” says marine biologist Rob Witbaard of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, who has researched into the A. islandica for more than 30 years.