200-year-old clam released in Florida

A clam thought to be over 200 years old was released last week from the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Florida.

According to the GSML, the geriatric mollusk may have been born in the same year as Abraham Lincoln.

The clam was discovered by AmeriCorps Lab member Blaine Parker over Presidents Day weekend as he and his family were strolling along Alligator Point near Tallahassee. They were looking for shellfish to make clam chowder.

After discovering the mollusk, Parker decided to bring the mollusk to the GSML, where the mollusk was classified as an ocean quahog or Arctica islandica.

Ocean quahogs typically live in habitats along the Atlantic coast between Newfoundland, Canada and North Carolina, according to the GSML. This means that the Parker snail found along the Gulf of Mexico was far from home.

Besides being a bit of a traveler, the clam was also big. The GSML said ocean quahogs typically have a shell length of about 2.8 to 4.3 inches long, but the one Parker found was 6 inches long. Additionally, the mollusk weighed 2.6 pounds.

The clam was also significantly aged. According to the GSML, Parker calculated the clam’s age by counting the number of layers on its shell and determined that the heavy, traveled ocean quahog was 214 years old.

The large clam was discovered by Blaine Parker during Presidents Day weekend.
Gulf Marine Specimens Laboratory

This puts the clam’s birth year at 1809 – a birth year she shares with Abraham Lincoln. Because of its association with the 16th President and its discovery on Presidents Day weekend, Parker nicknamed the ocean quahog “Abra-clam Lincoln”.

According to NOAA, ocean quahogs are among the longest-lived sea creatures in the world. Some, like the Abra-clam Lincoln, can live for at least 200 years.

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However, after the flurry of media coverage of Abra-clam, the GSML said the clam may have been misidentified and its age of 214 is questionable.

Abra-clam Lincoln was originally considered an ocean quahog. But after working with Edward Petuch, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, GSNL determined that Abra-clam Lincoln was more of a southern quahog.

Big clam.
Abra-clam Lincoln was determined to be a southern quahog.
Gulf Marine Specimens Laboratory

Big clam.
The GSML said the clam’s true age would be impossible to determine without killing it.
Gulf Marine Specimens Laboratory

The abra-clam Lincoln was also thought to be 214 years old, an age calculated by counting the ridges on the outside of the clam’s shell. GSML said this method used to estimate the age of the clam was, however, a misinterpretation of a scientific paper.

The article states that the correct method of aging a clam is to count the ridges inside its shell. Using this method to determine the age of Abra-clam Lincoln, however, would kill the clam. Thus, his true age will remain unknown.

“It has been a learning experience for all of us here at Gulf Specimen, and we cherish it as such,” GSML said in its Facebook post.

“It was deeply inspiring to see the audience so engaged with such an uncharismatic sea creature as a clam,” they added. “This widespread interest in marine life has invigorated us in our mission to protect the world’s precious waters through education.”


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