Shedd Aquarium says goodbye to Granddad, the beloved lungfish

February 7, 2017, 12:09 p.m.
Australian lungfish Granddad
Photo: Shedd Aquarium

For more than 80 years, an Australian lungfish named Granddad led a laid-back life at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. He came to the facility for the 1933 World's Fair and soon became a visitor favorite, delighting them with his unusual good looks.

Estimated to be more than 90 years old, Granddad's long life recently came to a quiet end when he was euthanized "due to a rapid decline in quality of life associated with old age," according to the aquarium. In the last week he had lost interest in his food and his caregivers had found that his organs were failing.

Granddad was the "longest-lived of any fish in a zoological setting in the world," according to the aquarium. Granddad and a female lungfish made a three-day 9,000-mile trip by steamboat and railroad from Sydney to Chicago. Granddad's mate died in 1980, but he went on to live a long life, even attracting the Australian consul general on the museum's 80th anniversary.

Neoceratodus forsteri are native to only two rivers in Queensland. According to the aquarium, they have gills, as well as one primitive lung that allows them to breathe air in stagnant water, but they can't survive breathing air alone.

The species is likely the oldest living vertebrate on the planet, with fossils dating back 380 million years, reports the University of Washington.

Although Granddad wasn't known for being incredibly boisterous (or even very active), his occasional bursts of movement delighted his fans. According to Shedd:

Granddad delighted guests when several times an hour he would slowly rise from his apparent torpor at the bottom of the habitat, slowly flap his large pectoral and pelvic fins, and slurp air at the surface. Behind the scenes, aquarists in the vicinity were occasionally startled by the long, loud snorts the fish made as he breathed.