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What’s the World’s Oldest Animal?

Hint: He lives underwater and was around when Columbus discovered the Americas.

December 3, 2013
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Ming the quahog

The quahog Ming is believed to have been the world’s oldest animal.

Scientists at Bangor University in the United Kingdom have determined that a bivalve mollusk, or ocean quahog, is the world’s oldest animal. The quahog, called Ming, is believed to be 507 years old.

Unfortunately, because the scientists pried Ming’s shell open to count the rings inside and verify his age, Ming will not celebrate birthday No. 508. He died as part of the research process.

Ming was named for the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China at the time the quahog was believed to be born. The year of his birth was around 1499, just after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas.

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Scientists responding to calls of outrage about the quahog’s death noted that some 200 similar animals were captured during an expedition to Iceland in 2006, and that thousands of them are caught commercially each year. Ming, they say, is most likely one among many centuries-old quahogs — and may not even be the oldest one living deep beneath boaters’ hulls.

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