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World's Oldest Animal: 507-Year-Old Mollusk 'Ming' Accidentally Killed

First Posted: Nov 14, 2013 01:31 PM EST

Scientists might not have been so certain how old the world's old animal actually was. In other words, it's a bit older than they thought: 100 years older to be exact.

The mollusk discovered in Iceland in 2006 was previously believed to be around 405 years old. However, when researchers took another look, they  discovered that the creature was 507. (Unfortunately, they accidentally killed it in the process.) 

"We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hastingly publishing our findings back then," Paul Butler said, via ScienceNordic, who studies this type of mollusk at Bangor University in Wales.

The mollusk even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-lived non-colonial animal discovered in quahog clam Artica islandica, which has been living on the seabed off the north coast of Iceland until it was dredged by researchers from Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences, Wales in the United Kingdom. In 2007, after further studies, scientists found that the clam -- nick-named 'Ming' after the Chinese dynasty -- was born during this ruling period in 1499.

The discrepancy in age can be seen by only a few millimeters of rings that were compressed and incorrectly read. When scientists looked to revisit Ming's age, they decided to look at the rings on the outside of the shell that had spread out more.

The secret to this creature's long life-span may lie in its metabolism.

"The A. islandica has a very low oxygen consumption. When an animal has such a slow metabolism, it normally also means that it has a very long lifespan. However, I also believe that part of the reason for its longevity lies in its genes," German animal physiologist and marine biologist Doris Abele said.

Researchers also believe that this animal may offer clues regarding climate change through oxygen isotopes that can help determine oceanic temperatures. 

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