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(Photo: Rob Witbaard) could live beyond 100 years,” he says.“I had several specimens in my collection that had more than 100 growth rings, but I found it difficult to convince people that they were really that old.Today, however, these growth rings have become an accepted way of dating the are visible both on the outside and the outside of the shell.The ‘new’ age means that the mollusc was born in 1499 – only a few years after Columbus visited America for the first time, and more than a decade before Martin Luther’s Reformation of the Catholic Church.The mollusc’s 507-year-long life came to an abrupt end in 2006 when the British researchers – unaware of the animal’s impressive age – froze the mollusc onboard the ship.It was for this very reason that the British researchers initially chose to count Ming’s growth rings inside the hinge ligaments.This photo shows the growth rings inside the shell, which formed the basis for the new, more accurate, estimate.How can we be sure that the British researchers have determined Ming’s correct age this time around?

After the photo was captured in 2007, the shells were separated to allow accurate determination of the animal’s age.And the really amazing thing is that the pattern in the ocean quahog’s growth rings actually recurs in tree rings.” The discovery of Ming in 2006 has inspired many researchers to try and figure out the secret behind its impressive age.One leading researcher in this field is the German animal physiologist and marine biologist Doris Abele.After its death, the mollusc was given the name Ming – after the Chinese Ming dynasty, which was in power when the animal was born.For each year of the ocean quahog’s life, a new growth ring emerges on its shell.

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