(NaturalNews) Although scientists and their conservation efforts (let's forget their destructive efforts for this article) have done some amazing things to save numerous plants and animals, like determining that DDT was one factor affecting the birth rates of the American bald eagle (leading to its eventual recovery), they also make mistakes. One such mistake was accidentally killing the world's oldest animal.
In 2006, researchers discovered an Arctica islandica, or ocean quahog, which is a bivalve (clam). The scientists thought the animal to be 402 years old, but to get a better understanding of its age they needed to open the shell to look at the growth rings on the inside, which are better protected from corrosion due to the elements. By opening the shell, they in effect killed the animal, but since the animal was so old, the growth rings were so close on the inside of the shell that they couldn't be counted, and they had to go back to the outside of the shell to determine its age anyways! The scientists were finally able to determine that the animal was 507 years old; it came into existence in 1499 (around 275 years before the United States did). They had killed the oldest animal ever known!
There are many long lived species of animals on planet Earth. For example, the giant Galapagos tortoises can live over 175 years, and certain whale species can live to be over 200 years old. Let's not even get into plants, where the bristlecone pines can reach the ripe old age of 5,000 years old. Humans on the other hand are far behind, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the average human life expectancy is now over 80 years old as of 2011, with the oldest authenticated human living to the age of 122 years and 164 days.
Although the quahog's life ended before its time (I mean, it was over 500 years old), its shell still offers many secrets for researchers to determine. For instance, its shell composition and specific size of the growth rings can offer light into the changing sea temperatures over the last 500 years. Likewise, there may be some interesting clues hidden in the shell with regard to understanding longevity.
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