Meet Methusalem, the oldest living aquarium fish

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Meet Methuselah, the fish that likes to eat fresh figs, get belly rubs and is believed to be the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.

In the Bible, Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather and is said to have lived to 969 years old. The Methusalem fish is not quite that old, but biologists at the California Academy of Sciences believe it is about 90 years old, with no known living peers.

Methuselah is a 4-foot-long (1.2-meter), 40-pound (18.1-pound) Australian lungfish that was brought to the San Francisco Museum in 1938 from Australia.

A primitive species with lungs and gills, Australian lungfish are thought to be the evolutionary link between fish and amphibians.

Not foreign to mention, Methuselah’s first appearance in the San Francisco Chronicle was in 1947: “These strange creatures – with green scales resembling fresh artichoke leaves – are known by scientists as a possible ‘missing link’ between land and aquatic animals.”

Until a few years ago, the oldest Australian lungfish was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. But the fish named grandfather died in 2017 at the age of 95.

“By default, Methuselah is the oldest,” said Allan Jan, a senior biologist at the Academy and the guardian of the fish. Methuselem’s caretakers believe that the fish is she, even though it is difficult to determine the sex of the species without a risky blood test. The academy plans to send a small sample of her fins to researchers in Australia who will try to confirm the sex and find out the exact age of the fish.

Jan says Methusalem likes to be rubbed on his back and stomach and has a “soft” personality.

“I tell my volunteers, pretend she’s an underwater puppy, very soft, gentle, but of course, if she’s startled, she’s a sudden bout of energy. But for the most part, she’s just calm,” said Jan. Methusalem has developed taste for seasonal figs.

“She is a little picky and only likes figs when they are fresh and in season. She will not eat them when they are frozen, “said Jeanette Peach, spokeswoman for the California Academy of Sciences.

The academy has two other Australian lungfish that are younger, both believed to be in their 40s or 50s, Jan said.

The Australian lungfish is now an endangered species and can no longer be exported from Australian waters, so biologists at the academy say they are unlikely to get a replacement when Methusalem dies.

“We just give her the best possible care we can give and hopefully she thrives,” Jan said.

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