Old Clams, Transparent Frogs, and Wordsworth

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Id_ic_meis_kill_ap_002Scientists from Bangor University’s School of Ocean Studies in Wales recently killed the longest-lived creature ever discovered. It was a clam. A quahog clam, to be precise and it had been living off the coast of Iceland for a little bit more than 400 years until this autumn, when it was dredged up by the team of scientists and opened, thereby killing it, in order to study the rings inside its shell for information about changes in the environment. ABC News noted that as an infant clam it would have been alive at the same time that Shakespeare was staging Hamlet.

This brings to mind a few famous lines from Wordsworth’s poem “The Tables Turned.” He writes:

Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

These lines tend to get bandied about every time something like the clam incident occurs, which is often. We’re always killing things to find out about them or killing things for the greater benefit or for the Good or simply for pleasure. There is a way, as Wordsworth says, that our meddling intellect is simply murderous.

But it cuts the other way sometimes too. In another recent story we learn that certain frogs have been bred for translucency. A research team in Hiroshima, Japan — I’m not making this up — has crossbred the recessive genes in the Japanese brown frog in order to create frogs with transparent skin. No more dissection. No more classrooms littered with the corpses of our amphibian sacrifices to the Gods of knowledge.

More here.