A 214-year-old clam named “Aber-clam Lincoln,” discovered in Florida, was born the same year as Abraham Lincoln

Hard shell clam at low tide — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Christopher Seufert

This Thursday, the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab released Lincoln, a quahog clam thought to be 214 years old, into the Gulf of Mexico.

At Florida’s Alligator Point, Americorps member Blaine Parker discovered the 200-year-old mollusk while gathering shellfish for chowder.

The clam, according to Parker, is substantial enough to yield two servings and has shells big enough to serve the food in.

“We were just going to eat it, but we thought about it a while and figured it was probably pretty special. So, we didn’t want to kill it,” Parker said. 

As a substitute, he brought it to the aquarium at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, where he is a specimen gatherer.

Lincoln measures 6 inches and weighs 2.6 pounds, while the majority of ocean quahogs are 2.8 to 4.3 inches long and up to a half pound in weight.

According to Parker, clams, like trees, leave behind alternating bands of light on their shells that serve as indicators of their ages.

The clam’s shell has 214 layers, which indicates that it was most likely born in 1809, the same year as Abraham Lincoln. Also, it was found over Presidents Day weekend. Parker gave his discovery the name Aber-clam Lincoln.

From Greenland south to North Carolina, the Atlantic is home to quahogs.

They move by being tossed in the surf and by tightening and stretching their muscles as they crawl along the beach.

Lincoln may have been forced to relocate south due to his advanced age, making him one of the oldest people to have moved to Florida.

It is known that quahogs can live 200 years or beyond. When Ming, a 507-year-old clam, was discovered on the Icelandic seafloor in 2007, it broke the record for the world’s oldest mammal.

According to scientists, Lincoln and other quahogs’ remarkably low metabolic rates are to blame for their extraordinarily lengthy lifespans. According to a 2018 University of Kansas study, the 299 species of extinct and surviving bivalves with the lowest energy requirements were able to avoid extinction.

Lincoln appears to have been born prior to the Industrial Revolution, which resulted in a significant increase in the use of fossil fuels.

Clamshells dating back hundreds of years have been used by researchers to track changes to the North Atlantic climate system. When a period of regional cooling ended around 1850, analysis of oxygen and carbon isotopes showed a profound change in the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere.

The fourth-oldest known clam is Lincoln.

A further look at the oldest known clams

  • 507-year-old Ming the Mollusk was found off the coast of Iceland in 2006.
  • A 374-year-old mollusk was collected off Iceland in 1968.  
  • A 220-year-old quahog was pulled from American waters in 1982.

An examination resembling an autopsy can provide a more precise age estimate for clams. As experts examined Ming’s interior, their estimate of his age was raised by 104 years.

So, there is a good chance that Aber-clam Lincoln is older than what the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab believes.

Lincoln is still alive, in contrast to the others. Ming and the others have stopped aging.

On February 24, Lincoln will resume surfing around the Gulf Coast.

“We just figured he won’t live very well in captivity,” Parker said. “And I think he’s earned the right to stay out there.”