Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Granddad the Octogenarian Australian Lungfish

On Tuesday, Malcolm and I attended the 80th anniversary celebration for Granddad, an Australian lungfish who holds the record as the oldest living fish in any zoo or aquarium in the world. He was full grown when he arrived at the Shedd for the 1933 World’s Fair, which makes him at least 85 years old, but possibly much older. Australian Consul-General, the Honorable Roger Price, spoke congratulating Granddad on his longevity and promising a continuing relationship between the Shedd Aquarium and the Australian Government.

The collection manager spoke about her experience with Granddad since her employment at the Shedd began in the 1990’s, including the startling sound he makes as he comes to the surface to gulp air on occasion. Australian lungfish are equipped with both gills and a single lung to process dissolved oxygen and atmospheric oxygen, respectively. We also learned that South American and African lungfish have a pair of lungs, rather than a single lung like Granddad and his Australian exhibit-mates.

This was Granddad coming up to gulp some air, right on cue:

Granddad’s caretakers created a layer cake from ice filled with smelt, shrimp, diced yellow squash, grated carrots, sweet potatoes, and green peas, decorated with seaweed and raspberries. Although, I don’t think it contained any grapes, which we surprisingly learned from the collection manager is one of Granddad’s favorite foods.

Here's an image of the cake from the Shedd Aquarium website by Brenna Hernandez:

I think Malcolm was the youngest of the 100 or so attendees. As such, we were pushed to the front of the crowd by one of the aquarium employees who thought it might be a good photo op to have the oldest fish and the youngest visitor in close proximity! I scoured Google news to see if any of the news reports caught us on video, but came up empty handed!

Since we are members, this was Malcolm’s third visit to the aquarium and I love seeing him absorb more each time! Now that school is in session and we arrived early in the day, the aquarium was the most deserted I have seen it (even considering those gathered for Granddad’s big day). It was nice because I was able to hold Malcolm really close to the exhibits without feeling rushed. The yellow dart frogs, in particular, were right up against the glass and jumping around frequently, which seemed to amuse him! He always loves to look at the circular Caribbean reef tank right in the center. It’s one of the more active and well lit exhibits, so I think the constant motion helps maintain his attention.

This exhibit (and photo) is pretty dark, but I always love to look for the nautilus and I was excited to spot two:

The Shedd often has bamboo shark eggs on display. I've asked about them before and apparently their exhibit has enough of these sharks where they send the eggs to other aquariums rather than raising the sharks here. This visit there were three:

Between the walk to the train station, the train ride into the city (Malcolm’s first), the bus to the aquarium, Granddad’s party, and making a round of the main floor exhibits, Malcolm was beat (and honestly so was his mommy). I ate my packed lunch in front of the dolphin exhibit in the Oceanarium while Malcolm took a little snooze in his stroller. We wrapped up our visit with the sharks in the Wild Reef, by which point Malcolm let me know with a little fussing that he was ready to head home!

Here is a shot of Malcolm in front of the shark tank:

He was an old pro by his second train ride and promptly fell asleep like any seasoned L passenger.

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