Large clam believed to be more than 200 years old released in Florida
The clam was given the name 'Abra-clam Lincoln,' as it was believed to have been born the same year as the 16th president.
TALLAHASSEE – A clam believed to be more than 200 years old was released last week by 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 one of the lab’s AmeriCorps members, Blaine Parker, over Presidents' Day weekend when he and his family were walking along Alligator Point near Tallahassee. They were looking for shellfish so that they could prepare some clam chowder.
Upon discovering the mollusk, Parker decided to bring the mollusk to the GSML, where the mollusk was classified as an ocean quahog or Arctica islandica.
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Ocean quahogs usually live in habitats along the Atlantic Coast between Newfoundland, Canada and North Carolina, according to the GSML. This means the mollusk Parker found along the Gulf of Mexico was far from home.
In addition to being a bit of a traveler, the clam was also large. The GSML said ocean quahogs typically have a shell length of about 2.8-4.3 inches long, but the one Parker found measured 6 inches long. Plus, the mollusk weighed 2.6 pounds.
The clam was also significantly old. According to the GSML, Parker calculated the clam’s age by counting the number of layers on its shell and determined that the hefty, traveled ocean quahog was 214 years old.
This puts the clam’s birth year to 1809 – a birth year it shares with Abraham Lincoln. Because of its association with the 16th President and its discovery over Presidents Day weekend, Parker nicknamed the ocean quahog "Abra-clam Lincoln."
Ocean quahogs are some of the longest-lived sea creatures in the world, according to NOAA. Some, such as Abra-clam Lincoln, can live for at least 200 years old.
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After the surge of media coverage of Abra-clam, however, the GSML stated that the clam may have been misidentified and its age of 214 years old questionable.
Abra-clam Lincoln was originally believed to be an ocean quahog. But after working with Florida Atlantic University professor Edward Petuch, GSNL determined that Abra-clam Lincoln was instead a southern quahog.
Abra-clam Lincoln was also thought to be 214 years old, an age calculated by counting the ridges on the exterior of the clam's shell. GSML said this method used to estimate the clam's age, however, was a misinterpretation of a scientific paper.
The paper states that the correct method of aging a clam involves counting the striations on the interior of its shell. Using this method to determine Abra-clam Lincoln's age, however, would kill the clam. So, its true age will remain unknown.
"This has been a learning experience for all of us here at Gulf Specimen, and we cherish it as such," GSML said in their Facebook post.
"It has been deeply inspiring to see the public so engaged with a sea creature as uncharismatic as a clam," they added. "This widespread interest in marine life has reinvigorated us in our mission to protect the world’s precious waters through education."