By: Amanda Froelich,
When will the cost of scientific discovery be too high? Humanity has adversely affected a variety of endangered and now extinct animal species, poisoned the oceans through man-made disasters, and continues to trample over the delicate perfection nature holds, all for the sake of science.
Exploration and pursuit of wisdom is admirable, but what if the damage being done in the present will one day be regretted in the future? An unfortunate example of this type of tragedy has recently made headlines:
In 2006, a deep sea clam known as a quahog was taken alive from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean by researchers for study. Frozen while they waited to carry out tests on the clam, it died in the interim. When scientists did begin studying the now-dead sea creature, they realized it was over 400 years old.
Researchers named the giant clam “Ming the Mollusc” after the Chinese ruler who reigned at the time the mollusc was birthed. It turns out, however, that it was actually even older.
When Ming the Mollusc was killed, it was 507 years old.
“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,” claimed Dr. Paul Butler, a scientist at Bangor University.
Explained in The Telegraph, the age can be determined by the unique markings in the quahog’s shell, similar to a tree. Counting the rings at the hinge of Ming’s shell, scientists had missed the compressed markers in and outside of the shell that revealed its age. While studies can still be conducted to learn more about sea temperatures and water masses thousands of years ago, other discoveries will go unknown now that the ancient clam is deceased.
Their new findings put the birth of the Mollusc less than a decade after Colombus sailed to America. This was also around the same time King Henry VIII married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon in 1509.
With a life span that witnessed wooden ships, ocean liners, submarines, and transatlantic cables, it seems a bitter ending to then die in the freezer of a laboratory.
It is essential tact be adopted to protect future discoveries and preserve the Earth; hopefully this disappointing ending may serve as lesson for all humanity as it progresses.