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Aug. 9, 2022

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Aquarium’s lungfish was 109 when it died

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CHICAGO — In the years before his death in 2017, Granddad, an Australian lungfish, was the oldest zoo animal in Chicago and the longest-lived aquarium fish in the world. He spent more than 80 years of his life at the Shedd Aquarium.

New research published in Frontiers in Environmental Science: Freshwater Science revealed that the beloved Shedd icon was from Burnett River, Queensland, Australia, and lived to be 109 years. Previously, the oldest known age of a wild lungfish was just 77 years.

Granddad was popular with visitors to the aquarium in his day and his death brought a lot of attention because of his suspected age. In a news release, the Shedd said this information can help with modern conservation planning and management approaches.

In 1933, Australia gifted Granddad to the Shedd, where he lived until he was euthanized in 2017 as his quality of life started declining because of his old age. He was one of two lungfishes the Chicago aquarium received from the Taronga Zoo and Aquarium in Sydney.

“Granddad was a remarkable animal who sparked curiosity about his species among millions of Shedd Aquarium guests,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at the Shedd.

Fossil data indicate that the species has been around for more than 380 million years and have largely stayed unchained for more than 100 million years.

Australian lungfish are one of the few fish species that can breathe both underwater via gills and in the air with lungs. The combination of their single primitive lung and gills allow them to withstand seasonal changes to water levels and water quality. The animals surface every 30 minutes to 60 minutes to noisily breathe in air.

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