400 year old seafood netted Published: 30 October, 2007
A PIECE of shellfish caught in Icelandic waters is believed to be over 400 years old – and is the longest lived recorded creature, a group of British scientists have disclosed.
The delicacy – known as a quahog clam, or Arctica islandica – was living and growing on the seabed in the cold waters off the north coast of Iceland for around 400 years.
Its age was assessed by counting the growth lines in the shell, according to Bangor University in Wales.
This meant the clam was born around the time when King James 1 (James V1 of Scotland) was replacing Queen Elizabeth I on the English throne and not long after the time William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth.
No-one knows how it has survived the centuries, but the finding beats the previous record of a 374-year-old Icelandic clam discovered in a museum and a 220-year-old Arctica specimen collected off the American Coast 1982, the university said.
Chris Brown, a member of the Bangor scientific team, said: “If, in Arctica islandica, evolution has created a model of successful resistance to the damage of ageing, it is possible that an investigation of the tissues of these real life Methuselah’s might help us to understand the process of ageing.” So significant is the find that the Help The Aged organisation has awarded a £40,000 grant to the team to investigate how the mollusc can help with ageing research.
The university added in a statement: “It seems very likely that longer lived individuals of species remain to be found. Although Icelandic waters seem to provide the ideal conditions for extreme longevity, clams with lifetimes well in excess of 200 years have been found both in the Irish Sea and the North Sea.”
But the scientists aged the clam from its shell which, like trees, has a layer or ring of growth for every year that the animal has been alive. The shell only grows in summer when the water is warmer and the plankton it eats is plentiful. Each year a layer as thin as 0.1mm is laid down and 405 lines have been counted.
The scientists have named their find Ming – after the Chinese dynasty and not the former Liberal Democrat leader.
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