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The oldest living aquarium fish in the world lives in San Francisco

The oldest living aquarium fish in the world lives in San Francisco
Methuselah, an Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) at Cal Academy's Steinhart Aquarium, is 92 years old, making it the world's oldest living fish in an aquarium. (California Academy of Sciences via Bay City News)

By Bay City News.

Have you ever wondered where the world's oldest living aquarium fish is located? According to California Academy of Sciences (Cal Academy), is in San Francisco.

Methuselah, an Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) at Cal Academy's Steinhart Aquarium, is 92 years old, according to a DNA analysis by Dr. Ben Mayne of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Dr. David Roberts by Seqwater.

The beloved fish, with a top estimated age of 101, was previously believed to be 84 years old, Cal Academy biologists said in a news release this week.

Methuselah has been at the Steinhart Aquarium since November 1938, outliving more than 200 other fish from Australia and Fiji that came to the public aquarium with it.

“She has become famous not only for her advanced age, but also for her charming personality and her penchant for belly rubs,” the Cal Academy biologists said.

Methuselah could also celebrate its centennial this year along with the Steinhart Aquarium because of the fish's higher age estimate, they said.

"Although we know that Methuselah came to us in the late 1930s, there was no method to determine his age at the time, so it's incredibly exciting to get scientific information about his actual age," said Charles Delbeek, project curator. of aquariums at Steinhart Aquarium. 

“Methuselah is an important ambassador for her species, helping to educate and spark the curiosity of visitors from around the world. But its impact goes beyond delighting aquarium visitors: making our living collection available to researchers around the world helps improve our understanding of biodiversity and what species need to survive and thrive,” he added.

According to Cal Academy, Methuselah's age was determined by Drs. Mayne and Roberts in a study that sampled 30 other lungfish from six other institutions in the US and Australia to create a catalog of live lungfish that will improve the accuracy of the DNA-based age clock previously developed for species.

The study included a new “harmless” method that uses a small tissue sample from a fin clip less than 0.5 centimeters square, Cal Academy biologists said.

"For the first time since the discovery of the Australian lungfish in 1870, the DNA age clock we developed offers the ability to predict the maximum age of the species," said Dr. Mayne.

“Precisely knowing the ages of fish in a population, including the maximum age, is vital for its management. This tells us how long a species can survive and reproduce in the wild, which is critical for modeling population viability and the reproductive potential of a species. 

Additionally, it is a unique and valuable opportunity for researchers to access exceptionally long-lived fish like Methuselah, maintained under the care of the California Academy of Sciences, as it helps us understand the maximum longevity of a species under ideal conditions of care.

While the fish's age prediction will improve over time, it will always "live beyond the calibrated age clock, as no other lungfish we know of is older than Methuselah," according to Dr. Roberts.

“This research highlights the important and often serendipitous discoveries that can occur when working with public aquariums and institutions that keep protected species in their care. This approach to investigating the longevity of rare and endangered animals could be extrapolated to almost any vertebrate species, and demonstrates the value that animal care institutions like the California Academy of Sciences can play in advancing knowledge. animal to improve the management of the conservation of species in nature,” he said.

The two biologists plan to publish the full results of their study later this year.


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