Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You may have eaten the oldest animal on earth in your clam chowder

A 405 year old clam is the new oldest animal, but someone has probably eaten an older clam since most end up in chowder. Anyone for some ancient clam chowder?

The ocean quahog is a clam that lives upwards of several hundred years. Fishermen use dredges to scoop them out of the sand, and turn them into clam chowder. Without knowing, you may have eaten a 500 year old clam.

The real fate of the world's oldest animal is missing from the news. Everyone's talking about one old clam, without noticing that we eat these little buggers. Scientists found a 405 year old ocean quahog in the ocean off Iceland, from a depth of 260 feet. This "Shakespeare" clam, alive when the bard was still writing plays, was only about 3 1/2 inches long.


Fox News notes ironically that scientists found the oldest animal on earth and killed it. The real news is that people are busy turning the world's oldest animal into clam chowder. Do you want to eat 500 year old animals? Can that be sustainable? Fishery managers think so, but I'm not so sure.

These clams live in the sandy ocean bottom, and there are no fancy corals or other dramatic habitat features that will lead to protection. And typical fishery management lets the biggest and oldest animals get sent to the fish market, so normal management won't protect them. These unsexy old animals will probably keep finding their way into chowder unless we value them simply for being old.

1 comment:

JB Cossart said...

Hey Mark,

Excellent post! As an editor for The Issue, a recently launched Blog Newspaper, I wanted to let you know that we linked to you today in the Science and Health Section. Our goal is to hunt down interesting blog posts and present them in the form of an online daily newspaper. I enjoyed your post - and of all the different renditions of this clam story, I thought yours was the most appropriate. Thanks