Methuselah — a fish that likes to eat fresh figs and get belly rubs — is believed to be the oldest living aquarium fish in the world.
In the Bible, Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather and was said to have lived to be 969 years old.
While Methuselah the fish is not quite that ancient, biologists at the California Academy of Sciences believe that it is about 90 years old, with no known living peers.
Methuselah is a 1.2m, 18.1kg Australian lungfish that was taken from Australia to the San Francisco museum in 1938.
A primitive species with lungs and gills, Australian lungfish are believed 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 looking like fresh artichoke leaves — are known to scientists as a possible ‘missing link’ between terrestrial and aquatic animals.”
Until a few years ago, the oldest Australian lungfish was at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, but that fish, named Granddad, died in 2017 at the age of 95.
“By default, Methuselah is the oldest,” said Allan Jan, senior biologist at the museum and the fish’s caretaker.
Methuselah’s caretakers believe that the fish is female, although it is difficult to determine the species’ sex without a risky blood draw. The museum plans to send a tiny sample of her fin to researchers in Australia, who would try to confirm the sex and figure out the fish’s exact age.
Jan said that Methuselah likes getting rubbed on her back and belly, and has a “mellow” personality.
“I tell my volunteers, pretend she’s an underwater puppy, very mellow, gentle, but of course if she gets spooked, she will have sudden bouts of energy. But for the most part she’s just calm,” Jan said.
Methuselah has developed a taste for seasonal figs.
“She’s a little picky and only likes figs when they are fresh and in season,” museum spokeswoman Jeanette Peach said.
The museum has two other Australian lungfish that are younger, believed to be in their 40s, Jan said.
The Australian lungfish is a threatened species and can no longer be exported from Australian waters, so biologists at the museum say it is unlikely that they would get a replacement once Methuselah passes away.
“We just give her the best possible care we can provide, and hopefully she thrives,” Jan said.
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