Most common fish, whether in the wild or in captivity, aren’t known for having especially long lives, with a majority of the most frequently-occurring ones only living around ten years, tops. But there are some sea creatures out there that, whether due to their own physiological makeup or fortunate circumstances, manage to stand the test of time. One fish that’s stood that test and then some lives at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco.
The fish in question is a lungfish named Methuselah, and by the staff’s estimates, she’s at least 90 years old. Methuselah was first brought to San Francisco all the way back in 1938 at the age of approximately 7. For context, the Golden Gate bridge had only been open for about a year at that time. As a lungfish, Methuselah is a very valuable specimen, as she possesses the ability to breathe both underwater and on land. Lungfishes have been considered a potential missing link between sea dwellers and amphibians.
Methuselah seems keenly aware that she’s such a prized critter, because she’s become one of the aquarium’s most high-maintenance residents. She’ll only eat figs, and only if they’re in season, and she refuses to share an enclosure with other marine life. If she’s in a foul mood, she’ll play a mean trick.
The oldest aquarium fish in the world lives in San Francisco and loves belly rubs. @peterhartlaub and I got to marvel at her beauty and meet the smart folks in charge of taking care of her @sfchronicle ? https://t.co/sRZKTgTZF7 pic.twitter.com/RMqmTa7Tof
— Jessica Christian (@jachristian) January 5, 2022
“Sometimes she’ll just start floating, tail up,” Methuselah’s keeper, California Academy of Sciences Senior Biologist Allan Jan, said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “And then we’ll get a bunch of calls. ‘What’s wrong with the fish? What’s wrong with the fish!’ … To the public, it looks like she’s in distress.”
It’s not all bad, though; as part of acclimating fish to aquarium life, they’re regularly subjected to tactile interaction with handlers. For Jan and Methuselah, this means regular belly rub sessions.