Marine Science in the News: A 507-year-old animal!

Say hello to Ming, a 507-year-old species of clam, which is the longest living animal that has ever existed!

This ocean quahog (pronounced kō-hog) set a new world record and even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. These hard shell clams are native to the east coast of North and Central Americas and can live 500+ years!

At 507-years-old, this animal has offered researchers insight into the history of their native habitat in the North Atlantic Ocean. Quahogs, like other bivalves, have growth rings that can be used to determine the animal’s age and learn about ocean chemistry throughout its life (similar to tree rings). Its age was established by a variety of methods, including the carbon-14 technique for radiocarbon dating (to learn how radiocarbon dating works, check out this article).

The Cardiff University research team discovered how the North Atlantic Ocean’s role in driving atmospheric climate changed drastically over the last 1000 years. Their conclusions are summarized below:

  • Pre-industrial period (pre-1800): variations in the sun’s activity and volcanic eruptions drove climate and atmospheric changes. Marine variability also played an active role in driving changes.

  • During industrial period (1800-2000): changes in the North Atlantic lag behind changes in the atmosphere, possibly due to the influence of greenhouse gases. The Northern hemisphere temperature changes were essentially driven by manmade forcings.

The pattern essentially switched with the influence of greenhouse gases. The conclusions highlight that there is some natural variability, but strong human-influenced trends have masked the natural patterns of the climate system.

Press release from Cardiff University:

Longest-living animal gives up ocean secrets” – posted December 6, 2016

Additional source:

What the world’s oldest animal can teach us” – posted December 12, 2016, author: Emily Tripp

Tags: quahog marine science carbon dating ocean discoveries bivalves

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