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Boffins dredge up oldest living animal

405 years, unmolested by science

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Scientists have dredged up the oldest known living creature and have called it Ming.

According to reports, the 405-year-old clam (for it is that kind of mollusc) has not been named for the ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats, but for the Ming Dynasty which ruled China when it was young. The clam is so old that during its youth Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and Shakespeare was penning his famous works.

The ocean quahog clam was dredged up off the coast of Iceland, and researchers calculated its age by counting the rings on its shell.

Professor Chris Richardson, from Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences explained that the rings on the clam's shell provide researchers with information about growth conditions year-by-year, and so provide a record of the environmental changes during the animal's life.

He told the BBC: "They are like tiny tape recorders, in effect, sitting on the sea bed and integrating signals about water temperature and food over time."

According to the Telegraph, the find is considered so promising for what it might reveal about the aging process that charity Help the Aged has funded the team investigating the clam to the tune of £40,000.

Richard Faragher, a gerontologist at Brighton University working with the Bangor team, told the newspaper: "Most of what we know about the ocean quahog is what it tastes like. We need to find out how it retains muscle strength, remains cancer-free, and keeps its nervous system intact over such a long period of time."

Sadly, since being discovered by science, Ming has popped its clogs. We can conclude from this that to live a long and healthy life, it would be advisable for a person to avoid being sliced in two by someone intent on counting one's rings. ®

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