Vintage clam chowder anyone?

National Geographic reports that scientists didn’t actually kill the world’s oldest animal, a clam, just to find out how old it was.

You may have seen the story of Ming given as:

At first there was nothing to suggest that Ming was any different to the other clams collected.

But in 2007, an initial count of the rings in its shell suggested the bivalve was a record-breaking 405-410 years old.

And now the elderly clam has made the headlines again, because a new more detailed analysis suggests it had lived for more than half a millennium.

The headlines around the world alleged that they had to kill it to see how old it was. People found that disturbing. But that’s not how it happened. It was just a data point in a larger study.

Oldest Clam Consternation Overblown.

Contrary to news reports, the researchers say they did not kill the elderly clam for the ironic-seeming purpose of finding out its age.

“This particular animal was one of about 200 that were collected live from the Icelandic shelf in 2006,” explains climate scientist Paul Butler from the same U.K. university, who, along with Scourse, dredged up the clam as part of a research project to investigate climate change over the past thousand years.

All 200 clams were killed when they were frozen on board to take them home. They didn’t find out how old Ming was until they were back in the lab and looked at its shell under a microscope.

Unfortunately, we learn more about an animal when we can study a specimen upon death. Now we know that quahog clams live incredibly long. So even though this one was very old, there are definitely older ones out there. How else would we have found this out? Besides, there are lots of these animals, we eat them in chowder. They are yummy and we now can bank this information away for further use.

  15 comments for “Vintage clam chowder anyone?

  1. November 16, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    As ex pat Brit/Northern Irish living in northern France, i suspect the Frogs have probably eaten even older. Sods eat anything. We have thousands of shellfish around our Irish coasts & hardly ever used for anything but fishing bait. Rest exported to places like France,& Spain in particular.First time i tried moules frites (mussels & fries) – traditional northern food , like the Brit fish n chips, New York hot dogs, southern corn dogs, etc, near broke me teeth, til remembered i was supposed to take the damn things out of shell first – i hasten to add this was before alcoholic consumption.Pity they wern’t as persistant at fighting armour in WWII. Ooops sliding towards guillotine again. Pity a scientist got over excited again. Frankly some are as over excited & over enthusiastic as the para lot, trying to prove a point.

  2. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Yeah, saw that headline on drudge. Fit in perfectly with their populist, often anti-science, emphasis and audience.

  3. Chris Howard
    November 16, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    I have a great recipe for clam chowder. I’m a chef, and kind of a big deal. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Speaking of, I’m soliciting recipes from those in the skeptic community, for a cookbook I’ll be editing after Christmas.

    I would like to provide it to the various organizations so that they may use it for fund raising purposes.

    I would also like to run a bio page with each submission.

    So, if you do have a favorite dish to submit please let me know.


  4. Chris Howard
    November 16, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    You are referring to paratroopers & SAS regiments, no?

  5. Eve
    November 16, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    Is everyone here just avoiding the obvious fact that this clam was kidnapped by elves?

  6. spookyparadigm
    November 16, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Deep Ones, Eve. They’re called Deep Ones. Though to be fair, Y’ha-nthlei sounds pretty similar to a lot of Icelandic toponyms.

  7. Chris Howard
    November 16, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    I have to say, you have a Lovecraftian knack. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. One Eyed Jack
    November 17, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    What kind of dishes are you looking for? I’m a food semi-nut and decent home cook. My family are all Mennonite, so we have a pretty solid Pennsylvania Dutch background. Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of slow smoked Q lately.

  9. Jesmojo Von Winklehoffer
    November 17, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    What do you call a skeptic’s cook book? “Never trust a skinny chef?”

  10. Chris
    November 18, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    I live on the American west coast and have never been served mussels outside of their shell. Though one trick is to eat the first one, and then use the hinged shell to pull the meat out of the other ones.

    But, yes, I do find it kind of annoying to have to pull the meat from the shellfish. Like when I was served cioppino in San Francisco. It is one thing to be served crab in its shell on a plate with implements to remove the meat from the shell, but it is quite a different thing to get crab, clams, mussels, etc where you are expected to do the same thing in soup!

  11. November 18, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    @ Chris. Meant paranormal lot not the SAS. I gave up on subtlety & just use my fingers, to eat the mussels. Finger lickin good. On fete days, of which they have dozens the restos show off how many moules frites they sell by creating a pyramid of the discarded shells outside. If it was back in Northern Ireland they’d be throwing the shells at someone.

  12. Chris Howard
    November 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Thanks for the clarification. My family had a house in Crail, Scotland. I’m pretty sure we used to throw the shells at each other? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think the family from Edinburgh would come over to “cut lose

  13. Chris Howard
    November 18, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Argh. I meant to say “cut loose”

    You can take the family out of the Highlands…

  14. November 18, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    @ Chris.The French other half is a big Scotophile, which is lucky with my Ulster/Scots accent. The Frogs like a good riot now & again too. As long as the Scots relatives are no connection to the Sawny Bean family they can’t be too bad. I need to translate “Weegie” for the belovรฉd though as Glasweigan just a bit too Scottish for her to follow.Shhh instead of Irish Claddagh for her birthday, i’ve gone Scots & bought her Luckenbooth this time.

  15. spookyparadigm
    November 18, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Wait until you see the chapter I’m publishing soon enough (presuming it survives peer review largely intact)

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