Sometimes the methods used for scientific research are odd. For instance, scientists are able to study the rings that form in certain molluscs to get an idea of the conditions of the oceans hundreds of years ago. To do this the scientists dredge molluscs up from the depths of the ocean, freeze them, and then cut them open to count the rings that form each year in the hinge of the shell.
Back in 2006, scientists dredged up a mollusc called an ocean quahog. Initial study of the rings in the hinge led scientists to believe that the mollusc was about 400 years old. Closer inspection revealed that the mollusc was actually much older.
The scientists dubbed the ancient mollusc Ming because it is so old that the Ming dynasty reigned in China when the mollusc was born. Scientists are able to determine the age of the mollusc by counting the rings on its shell. One new ring is gained each summer for the life of the mollusc.
The mollusc was so old that some of the rings had been compressed in the hinge. When the rings on the shell were counted, the scientists determined Ming was actually 507 years old. The mollusc was born in 1499. Molluscs are used for scientific study because their rings can provide details of what oceans were like hundreds of years ago.
Dr. Paul Butler said:
We got it wrong the first time and maybe we were a bit hasty publishing our findings back then. But we are absolutely certain that we’ve got the right age now.