Featured Image Credit: inlandseafood.com
By Jessica Kittel
Clams are useful for more than just chowder. A team of scientists have taken clams and turned them into a record of the last 1,000 years of marine climate. The recipe for this accomplishment is a little more complicated and time consuming than the average clam chowder.
These scientists, from Bangor University, Cardiff University, and Iowa State University (among others) have been working together since 2007. They took advantage of the extraordinarily long life of the quahog clam, one of the world’s longest-living animals, as described in the Independent. These clams can live to be over 500 years old and can be found in very cold water. This study used living and fossilized clams from the North Atlantic off Northern Iceland.
Their strategy was to use the “growth rings” on the clams’ shells. These growth rings can be used similarly to growth rings in a tree. Phys.org explains how researchers were able to study the rings and deduce information regarding ocean conditions.
This study is ground breaking for two reasons:
- This is the first study that has managed to create a dated, annual record of marine conditions that goes this far back. As you can image, it takes a lot of information and material to create something this extensive.
- Using this annual record, researchers have been able to study the effect density, circulation changes, and temperatures have had on the broader climate system in the past and how it relates to the present.
The results of this examination are that the industrial revolution (in the 1800s) and onward have created patterns not present anywhere else in the last 1,000 years. Before the industrial revolution, the record suggests that ocean changes led atmospheric changes, in other words, the ocean was the trendsetter and the atmosphere followed along shortly after with a similar response. However, following 1800, the atmosphere was put into the driver’s seat. As reported in Phys.org, one possible reason for this change-up is because the atmosphere responds more quickly to the warming effects of greenhouse gases.
Even though it doesn’t go with cheese biscuits as well as clam chowder does, these researchers must be quite pleased that after all those years of work, their labor has revealed some pretty groundbreaking information.