Methuselah is a living fossil. And not because of its age, which is close to 100 years, but because fossils from 380 million years ago have been found, with the same characteristics.
Methuselah is the fish that has lived the longest in an aquarium. This is a Queensland lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri). An analysis of his DNA has determined that he is between 83 and 101 years old.it is most likely that he has already celebrated his 92nd birthday.
Queensland lungfish live in Australian rivers that flow through that region. They are called lungs because, in fact, they have a lung, which allows them to breathe out of water for a time, under certain conditions. Here you can see Methuselah:
Methuselah is an Australian lungfish that arrived at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco (California) in November 1938, transported by ship from Australia. So it has been living in the aquarium for 85 years. That was, until now, his official age.
We know when Methuselah arrived at the aquarium, but not his actual age, because we do not know the time that passed from when he was born until he was captured, to be taken to the aquarium.
A fish with a century of life
Calculating the exact age of a living being, without harming or killing it, is very complicated..
In the case of fish, methods such as examining the otoliths, or ear bones, and removing entire scales are used. But as we have mentioned, they are painful methods, or you have to wait until the fish is dead.
The California Academy of Sciences has developed a new method that uses a tiny tissue sample from a fin clipping less than 0.5 square centimeters. It does not cause any harm to the animal.
By analyzing the DNA of this tissue, they have determined that Methuselah is 92 years old, with a margin of error up and down of 9 years. That is, he has lived between 83 and 101 years. Knowing that he has been in the Steinhart aquarium for 85 years, and that he had already turned a few years old when he was captured, he is surely around 90 or 100 years old.
According to his keepers, Methuselah is a calm and affectionate fish who likes to have his belly stroked. He loves to eat figs, but they have to be fresh and seasonal. If you give them frozen, they won’t eat them. It measures 1.2 meters and weighs 11 kilos.
Beyond the endearing anecdote of 100 year old fish, this new technique for dating the age of fish, through DNA, is going to be vital to help endangered species. Knowing how many years they can live will help protect them and allow you to plan captive breeding plans.