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Two fishermen haul in ancient find

Clam cut in a section to help determine its age. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

As the Thanksgiving holiday draws near, families gather to spend time together and share a good meal. In the Northeast a favorite in stuffing or as an appetizer is clams. A couple of New Jersey fishermen fishing for a common regional clam recently caught an ocean quahog that was more like a meal itself.

Curious to know the age of this giant clam, fishermen Darren McClave and Robert Clement contacted NOAA Fisheries port agent, Josh O’Connor. With the help of Northeast Fisheries Science Center shellfish ageing expert, Blanche Jackson, the fishermen got an answer!

Jackson determined that the quahog was at least 136 years old. Apparently quahogs, found in the ocean off the U.S. east coast, often reach ages in excess of a hundred years. The oldest clams ever reported were 225 years old.

How is shellfish aging done?

Scientists use a special saw to cut the quahog shell in half. Then they use a high power microscope to count the rings on the shell (much like the rings of a tree, which are laid down as the tree grows) to determine the animal’s age.