'Aber-clam Lincoln' May Be as Old as Honest Abe

Massive quahog believed to be 4th oldest clam ever found, reports 'Tallahassee Democrat'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2023 1:54 PM CST
Meet 'Aber-clam Lincoln,' a Mollusk as Old as Honest Abe
Stock image   (Getty/ Maleo Photography)

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 and apparently so, too, was Abra-clam Lincoln, believed to be the fourth oldest clam ever discovered. Blaine Parker of Florida was collecting shellfish for chowder when he unearthed the quahog clam, whose shell could've served as a soup bowl. Most quahogs are three or four inches long and weigh up to half a pound. This one, found off Alligator Point on St. James Island on President's Day weekend, was six inches long and weighed 2.6 pounds, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. The presidential coincidences led to the naming of the clam.

Parker, an Americorps member employed as a specimen collector at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, took the clam to work, where it became a star, receiving up to 100 visitors a day, per the Democrat. It's certainly unusual. Like trees, clams are aged by counting their rings. The 214 rings on the clam's shell suggest a birthdate of 1809. According to the Democrat, only three clams are known to have lived longer. But ring dating isn't exact. Ming the Mollusk, named after the Chinese dynasty in power when it hatched in 1499, holds the Guinness World Record for oldest known animal at 507 but was initially thought to be about 400 years old when it was found off the coast of Iceland in 2006.

It was only with an autopsy-like exam that Ming's true age was determined. "Bivalve sclerochronology requires examining a shell in cross-section, which is possible only after the inhabitant has been removed," Steven N. Austad at the Atlantic reported last year. That means Abra-clam Lincoln could be older than a 220-year-old quahog discovered in US waters in 1982, now considered the third-oldest known clam. But Abra-clam Lincoln won't get an autopsy. Parker released the clam back into the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. "We just figured he won't live very well in captivity," he tells the Democrat. "And I think he’s earned the right to stay out there." (Read more clams stories.)

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