Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of science is inadvertantly destroying the thing which you study in the pursuit of knowledge. Its unfortunate, and sometimes unavoidable, as in the case of these marine biologists who hauled an ancient ocean quahog out of Icelandic waters.
The group from Bangor University in Wales was conducting a routine dredge for research purposes when they found a clam-like mollusk, brought up from 250 feet down. The researchers cut though its shell, only to determine that the oceanic quahog had been between 405-410 years old, making it the oldest animal known. Doh! The age was determined by counting the rings in the shell, similar to the age rings in trees.
“Its death is an unfortunate aspect of this work, but we hope to derive lots of information from it,” postdoctoral scientist Al Wanamaker told London’s Guardian newspaper. “For our work, it’s a bonus, but it wasn’t good for this particular animal.”
Also, these shells are not overly huge, as their age might suggest. Another ancient quahog, aged to 225 years was 5.5 inches long (Ropes 1985).