Scientists Find, Kill World's Oldest Creature

Dennis Faas's picture

Scientists say they've found the world's oldest creature -- unfortunately, they've also killed the poor thing.

The creature in question is an ocean quahog known as the 'Ming clam'. It was found in northern Wales about seven years ago and, at the time, it was believed the creature was roughly four hundred years old.

That meant the Ming clam was the world's oldest creature, and soon found itself in the Guinness Book of World Records. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the previous record was set by another clam, though that one was discovered in Iceland. (Source:

Fame Comes at a Price for Ming Clam

However, upon further investigation scientists at Bangor University in Wales found that the mollusk was, in fact, more than five hundred years old.

In order to reach that conclusion, the Welsh scientists had to freeze the Ming clam and then open it up in order to study its inner rings.

That process, which resulted in the researchers killing the creature, showed that the mollusk began life 507 years ago. That means the Ming clam was born in 1499 -- just a few years after Columbus discovered the New World.

Researchers Sure They've Got It Right, This Time

For their part, the Bangor University scientists said they didn't intend to kill the ancient clam.

"The longest-lived clam was collected along with many others and, as it is impossible to age the clams until their shells have been opened, there was no indication of its extreme age until after this had been done," Bangor University noted in a press release.

"The notion that scientists knew in advance that it was the longest-lived species and then deliberately destroyed it is plainly incorrect." (Source:

In any case, the Bangor University researchers are certain they've got the Ming clam's age right this time around.

"We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then," noted Bangor School of Ocean Sciences researcher Dr. Paul Butler. "But we are absolutely certain that we've got the right age now."

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