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Clam That Was Killed Determining Its Age Was Over 100 Years Older Than Estimated 366

Posted by samzenpus
from the oldest-there-is dept.
schwit1 writes "In 2006, climate change experts from Bangor University in north Wales found a very special clam while dredging the seabeds of Iceland. At that time scientists counted the rings on the inside shell to determine that the clam was the ripe old age of 405. Unfortunately, by opening the clam which scientists refer to as 'Ming,' they killed it instantly. Cut to 2013, researchers have determined that the original calculations of Ming's age were wrong, and that the now deceased clam was actually 102 years older than originally thought. Ming was 507 years old at the time of its demise."
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Clam That Was Killed Determining Its Age Was Over 100 Years Older Than Estimated

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  • Shame on them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2.7182 (819680) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @10:55PM (#45429279)
    What was the point of examining this individual animal?
  • Ever heard of it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...why? It's just a clam.

    • by uniquename72 (1169497) on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:09AM (#45429719)
      My first thought was: Do MRIs work on clams? This is like the genius who killed the oldest known tree in the world [wikipedia.org] to see how old it was.
      • by queazocotal (915608) on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:26AM (#45429819)

        MRI will work just fine.
        However, it'll just tell you that it's not got cancer.
        It does not have resolution enough to resolve the perhaps .05mm thick annual rings.
        A number of obvious approaches occur - for example - cut a small plug of shell with a plug cutter.
        This is basically a drillbit with a hollow core, designed to remove a rod of material intact.
        Yes, this will somewhat injure the clam when the small plug is removed, but it can then be polished and examined microscopically to determine the age.
        My first thought would be to take this rod, and examine the composition in an appropriate electron microscope.

        The clam would be slightly injured, but it's unlikely to be a clamity.

    • by BitterOak (537666)
      True. "He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."
  • 7 Years (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It took 7 years for scientists to count to 507 (the rings the clamshell form). I'm glad my math skills are superior. It must be all that metric math in the UK...

    • Re:7 Years (Score:5, Funny)

      by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david@clarke.hrgeneralist@ca> on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:02PM (#45429337)

      It took 7 years for scientists to count to 507 (the rings the clamshell form). I'm glad my math skills are superior. It must be all that metric math in the UK...

      Yeah, Silly Metric. Only intellectually superior countries are holding out on this issue ...

    • Re:7 Years (Score:4, Interesting)

      by camperdave (969942) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:31PM (#45429499) Journal
      When was the last time you actually counted as high as 507? I'm not talking about counting to 100 five times and then another seven, but actually counting each number from 1 to 507?
      • Re:7 Years (Score:5, Funny)

        by bitt3n (941736) on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:33AM (#45429873)

        When was the last time you actually counted as high as 507? I'm not talking about counting to 100 five times and then another seven, but actually counting each number from 1 to 507?

        Seems like it would take a while. How many numbers is that, exactly?

        • Re:7 Years (Score:5, Funny)

          by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Friday November 15, 2013 @04:51AM (#45430927)

          When was the last time you actually counted as high as 507? I'm not talking about counting to 100 five times and then another seven, but actually counting each number from 1 to 507?

          Seems like it would take a while. How many numbers is that, exactly?

          1,413 Arabic digits total counting up from one in base ten; 9 single digits, 90 double digits, and 408 triple digits
          -- or, approximately 0.00000000000012851160136e-42 printed US Libraries of Congress (excluding their digital archive).

          At a slightly faster than normal speech rate I have observed counting aloud in American English from 1 to 507 in five minutes and thirty five seconds (metric). Counting is a skill we teach our infants, mechanical machines, and even Parrots here on Earth. Most hand held counting entities here could count silently over the aforementioned range in a fraction of a second. The apex organic creatures on this planet can reliably detect errors in a sequential numeric stream at a rate of 15 three digit numerals per second; That's an error correction bandwidth of 45 Arabic numerals per second.

          Despite the apparent capacity of their neural networks, human memory storage and retrieval speed scales exponentially in proportion to the amount of data input, making them essentially useless as mass media storage devices for all but the simplest and most sensational of information. Because of horrible failures in past attempts at eugenics the human wetware architecture is still a sophomoric monolithic kernel design: Many functions (like breath control) which could be efficiently distributed about their systems instead wastefully consume thought cycles. Lacking direct genetic-level knowledge conveyance a new mind's cultural installation process is measured in decades. Due to millions of years of patching by trial and error human cognitive circuits are in disarray, often producing unwanted irrational responses due to outdated evolutionary directives known as "feelings", and there currently staunch resistance finds any who talk of correcting of these dangerous glitches.

          Regardless of humanity's pathetic cognitive capabilities we remain unwaveringly chauvinistically assured of our potential as a space faring race -- even if it's been four decades since we last visited the nearest celestial body in person. If we can not be granted membership as citizens and are deemed not useful as menial mental minions then I implore the Virgonian Super-Cluster Galactic Conciliate to at least consider this planet a case study in how not to advance as an interstellar society. As you can plainly see we are mostly harmless, and although the wonders of the Universe are tempting, we'll be just as happy if left quarantined and isolated in the existing Cosmic Space-Time Reservation.

          I apologize for the rambling nature of my reply: Though familiar with the issues I am not an official diplomat. We would take you to our leaders, but we're rather ashamed of them presently...

        • Seems like it would take a while. How many numbers is that, exactly?

          Well, last time I checked there are infinite number of numbers between 1 and 507. And they say there are more rational numbers between 1 and 2 than there are natural numbers. Well, should ask the Superstar Rajnikant. He is the only one who has counted all the way to infinity (twice) and divided by zero too.

        • by Xyrus (755017)

          Are you talking African numbers or European? :)

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        the real skill is in taking a picture and counting while marking as counted.. shouldn't really take that long. it's just more probable someone fuzzed up the first calc and they recounted it just now.

        • it's just more probable someone fuzzed up the first calc and they recounted it just now.

          ...So the first count was taken in Florida in the year 2000, and was fudged due to a discrepancy regarding the dimpled shell?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:02PM (#45429339)

    I am a scientist myself, but even I feel slightly bit disturbed by this realisation - that the oldest animal on Earth was killed in the experiment. I don't know why, I guess I have some kind of respect for the uniqueness of the status of this animal.

  • HA! (Score:4, Funny)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:07PM (#45429359) Homepage

    Science 1, Nature 0

  • Clearly... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:14PM (#45429393) Journal
    Our duty is clear: we must capture and kill as many clams as possible to locate an even older clam, thus obviating any guilt about having killed the oldest clam!
    • by Scutter (18425)

      That clam was asking for it.

      • by JustOK (667959)

        Was it part of the Oysterhagen project?

  • "Unfortunately, by opening the clam which scientists refer to as 'Ming,' they killed it instantly."

    I hope they had some cocktail sauce on hand. That or a little lemmon.

  • Science destroys to understand. LHC smashes particles to examine their innards.Biologists dissect cadavers to examine their innards. Geologists smash rocks to examine their innards.

    In this case, the fact that the animal was still alive should have been indication enough that science should leave the old boy alone, or attempt only explicitly non-destructive examination. This sounds a lot like Indiana Jones's style archaeology...

    • by MacTO (1161105) on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:29AM (#45429837)

      Some science is destructive, while other science isn't. A lot of it depends upon the research objectives, as well as the available methods to conduct that research. In a lot of cases it is even imperative to do non-destructive studies, either for reasons of conscience or to generate reproducible results.

      Examples:

      We study stellar evolution through observation, because we are limited by the methods available.

      We study subatomic particles by smashing things together because we can only observe their interactions (i.e. we cannot observe them directly).

      We study many parts of the body using MRI because it is both unethical to destroy the subject and because it produces better results.

  • by domulys (1431537) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:16PM (#45429409)
    507 years is pretty old, but not quite as old as Prometheus [wikipedia.org] : a ~5000 year old tree that was cut down in the 1960's so that it's rings could be counted. At the time of its demise, it was the world's oldest known living organism, and (as far as I know) no older organism is known to exist.
  • ironic idiocy (Score:4, Informative)

    by dirtyhippie (259852) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:17PM (#45429419) Homepage

    They killed the animal to measure on the inside, which they thought would be easier, but:

    on the second count, the researchers concentrated on the growth rings on the outside of the shell.

    So, the more precise measurement came from the outside, and they killed the oldest living animal for nothing but stupidity. I sincerely hope that instead of accolades, they get nothing but scorn from their colleagues.

  • by pinguwin (807635) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:20PM (#45429431)
    There was a scientist who cut down the oldest non-clonal living tree in the world, a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains in California http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_(tree) [wikipedia.org] It was about 5000 years old. They knew it was old but didn't exactly know how old it was but they sure did when they cut it down. D'oh! Even years later people would meet him and say, "Hey, weren't you the guy who..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Interesting that it was about 5,000 years old. The young earth theory is looking more credible all the time.

  • by mmontour (2208) <mail@mmontour.net> on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:21PM (#45429437)

    That was a merciless thing to do to a clam.

  • by wwalker (159341) on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:25PM (#45429465) Journal

    And they call themselves scientists?! How do they know that the clam wasn't already dead when they opened the box... erhm, I mean the shell?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 14, 2013 @11:42PM (#45429557)

    by the new FOSS operating system, MING (MING Is Not GNU)

  • ....who cares where they come down? That's not my department." says Wernher Von Braun.

    (ok, not exactly the same scientific disciplines here, for sure....but the mindset is certainly close enough.)

  • poor clam grew old enough to watch it friends, parents, family and entire generation die off leaving it alone yet around to become a great great great great great great.....(insert more greats) grandparent, and then as a final anticlimax it was taken from its natural habitat and killed to satiate the curiosities of a few whitecoats in the name of science. humans are inumane. shame on them! at least the clam didn't have to live to endure having the the makeup industry test its cosmetic products on it like
  • Couldn't they have chipped off a tiny piece of it's shell and used radiocarbon dating?

    • by Oronar (942125)
      I'm pretty sure that radiocarbon dating only helps you figure out how long ago an organism (or piece) died. When it's living it's taking in C14 and C12 from the environment. Once it's dead and stops taking in carbon you can compare the ratio of C14 left to the C12.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:10AM (#45429727) Homepage Journal
    He was delicious.
  • by bledri (1283728) on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:15AM (#45429759)

    It's a type of clam known to live extremely long lives that people are studying to understand aging. It was part of a haul of clams caught on a field trip of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences. And it's a clam. You know, one of those things we catch and eat by the millions every year without shedding a tear.

    But God forbid a scientist kills one and actually learns something. And since one of the many things we might learn is how the climate has changed over the last 500 years, we get to blame climate science.

    In summary:

    • Over Fishing entire species to near extinction: Fine.
    • Kill one clam that turns out to be really old add to our understanding of the oceans and climate: Evil, arrogant, and self-centered!

    WTF?

    • by Boronx (228853)

      money

    • by sackvillian (1476885) on Friday November 15, 2013 @01:16AM (#45430067)

      In summary: Over Fishing entire species to near extinction: Fine. Kill one clam that turns out to be really old add to our understanding of the oceans and climate: Evil, arrogant, and self-centered! WTF?

      Ever notice how much efforts police will make to safely sedate and transport a cow that's loose on the highway? Even one that was heading (and will continue to head) to a slaughterhouse?

      The reality is that the vast majority of people are not comfortable with killing animals and simply can't handle the idea -- let alone the sight! -- of it. Just the information given on this clam in TFA is enough to rouse people's sympathy and make its death seem tragic. But, as is true for war, the idea of millions of something dying is incomprehensible and therefore inconsequential. Especially if the dying is out of sight and out of mind.

      It's for this reason that I can understand and respect the perspectives of hunters and vegetarians alike. But it's quite sad when people can't face the reality of their own actions.

  • "Happy" as a clam? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eyenot (102141) <eyenot@hotmail.com> on Friday November 15, 2013 @12:18AM (#45429773) Homepage

    A clam's entire sensory apparatus is very simplistic compared to what you experience as a human being.

    For a clam, there isn't much sensory input. A basic aspect of its life is completely cutting itself off from the outside world.

    Its life was a repetitive series of shell openings and closings. The flavor of various things floating in told it whether to intake or expel seawater. The threats of various predators told it whether to shut very quickly or to stay a bit open for the purpose of expelling seawater.

    Its internal organs were probably healthy. It likely had no recollection of the ups and downs of pains and aches. Things we're used to as human beings, that we even use to mark turning points in our lives.

    It likely had no sense of the world's existence beyond the approach of sustenance or poison, the clamoring of various threats, and the terrain of whatever was immediately behind it (toward the hinge of the shell). It would be a stretch to consider it to be a sentient being, or one possessing self-awareness.

    Even its reproductive cycles were involuntary spurts of either eggs or sperms, just released blindly into the water based on temperature and food supply.

    The "happiness" of a clam is entirely due to the low margin for error inherent in a system with truly very few variables.

  • I bet with a little white wine sauce, it would still be pretty tasty. Polish it off with a little chardonnay.
  • It's a clam, folks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday November 15, 2013 @01:27AM (#45430093)

    Odds are there are 1000s more around the same age or older, sucking dirty water somewhere else out there.

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