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That Clam In Your Chowder Might Be Hundreds Of Years Old

Posted: November 16, 2013

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A claim about a clam leads to a discovery for some of us: Those bivalves in our bowls may be centuries-old.

First we heard on Morning Edition that a clam scientists had opened up turned out to have been 507 years old.

That led us to stories with headlines like this: "Scientists accidentally kill world's oldest animal at age 507."

Which took us to a more authoritative-sounding report, from National Geographic, which makes the case that "scientists didn't actually kill the world's oldest animal, a clam, just to find out how old it was."

It seems that "Ming" (yes, the scientists gave it a name), had been dredged up from waters off the coast of Iceland in 2006 with a couple hundred other clams. They were quickly frozen for study later. The scientists didn't go out to sea searching for a particularly old-looking quahog clam and then do it in just to see how old it was.

What's more, the "world's oldest animal" line is also debatable. The Christian Science Monitor says that distinction might go "to some venerable corals."

But what's really shocked some of us is what the researchers told the BBC:

"The same species of clam are caught commercially and eaten daily; anyone who has eaten clam chowder in New England has probably eaten flesh from this species, many of which are likely several hundred years old."

We probably should have paid more attention in biology, or home economics, but wow!

Our friends at The Salt have much more food for thought.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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