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Scientists claim world's oldest creature (shame they killed it finding out)

The Ming clam was thought to be 405 years old. Now Welsh scientists know it was 507 years old. Sadly, their probing it for its age killed it.

2 min read
One minute it's old and alive. The next... MFoley528/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

As Kelly Clarkson ought to have sung: What doesn't kill you makes you older.

In the case of the Ming clam, however, it stopped aging when scientists at Bangor University in Wales decided to see just how old it really was.

It was found in 2006. At that time, it was thought to be 405 years old. Should you never have tried to count the age of a mollusk, all you do is count the rings on the inside of a shell.

Yes, it's not too dissimilar to what you do with a tree when you want to send it the appropriate birthday card.

Of course, opening the shell of something that might be over 400 years old tends to give it a shock. Indeed, back in 2006, Ming was merciless and, once the probing was done, lifeless.

Still, the scientists kept his carcass for more sophisticated probing. And now, as the Mirror reports, they hang their heads in shame, as well as mourning.

For a recount of Ming's rings reveals he was actually 507 years old, making him -- as far as these scientists are concerned -- the oldest creature in the world.

Bangor University ocean scientist Paul Butler told the Mirror: "We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then. But we are absolutely certain that we've got the right age now."

You'd think that scientists would be fairly good at counting. It seems that it's an imperfect science.

Even in 2006, Ming was said to be the oldest -- the previous most ancient being a 374-year-old Icelandic clam.

Now the legend of Ming will live on.

But how much longer would he have lived, if it wasn't for the excessive enthusiasm of the scientists?

He might still have been alive today, ready to tell us what it was like to be alive in 1499 when Vasco da Gama arrived back to Lisbon from India.