Meet Methuselah, the fish that loves to eat fresh figs, have its belly rubbed and is considered the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.
In the Bible, Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather and is said to have lived to be 969 years old. The Methuselah fish isn’t that old, but biologists from the California Academy of Sciences believe it’s around 90 years old, with no known living peers.
Methuselah is a 4-foot-long (1.2 meter) and 40-pound (18.1 kilogram) Australian lungfish that was brought to the San Francisco Museum in 1938 from Australia.
A primitive species with lungs and gills, the Australian lungfish is thought to be the evolutionary link between fish and amphibians.
No stranger to publicity, Methuselah’s first appearance in the San Francisco Chronicle was in 1947: “These strange creatures – with green scales resembling fresh artichoke leaves – are known to scientists as a possible ‘missing link’ between terrestrial and aquatic animals.
Until a few years ago, Australia’s oldest lungfish was found at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. But this fish, named grandfather, died in 2017 at the age of 95.
“By default, Methuselah is the oldest,” said Allan Jan, senior biologist at the California Academy of Sciences and fish keeper. Methuselah’s guardians believe the fish to be female, though it’s difficult to determine the sex of the species without a risky blood draw. The academy plans to send a small sample of its fin to Australian researchers, who will try to confirm the sex and determine the exact age of the fish.
Jan says Methuselah loves having his back and stomach rubbed and has a “sweet” personality.
“I tell my volunteers, pretend she’s an underwater puppy, very sweet, gentle, but of course if she’s scared she’ll have sudden bursts of energy. But for the most part she’s just calm said Jan. Methuselah has developed a strong taste for seasonal figs.
“She’s a picky eater and only likes figs when they’re fresh and in season. She won’t eat them when they’re frozen,” said Jeanette Peach, spokeswoman for the California Academy of Sciences.
Organic blackberries, grapes and romaine lettuce are incorporated into his daily diet, which also includes a variety of fish, clams, shrimp and earthworms, said Charles Delbeek, curator of the museum’s Steinhart Aquarium. .
The academy has two other younger Australian lungfish. Named for their sizes, “Medium” arrived at the museum in 1952 and “Small” in 1990, both from Mary River, Queensland, Australia, Delbeek said. They weigh about 25 pounds (11 kilograms) and 15 pounds (7 kilograms), respectively.
The Australian lungfish is now an endangered species and can no longer be exported from Australian waters, so academy biologists say they are unlikely to get a replacement once Methuselah dies.
“We just give her the best possible care, and I hope she thrives,” Jan said.
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