WTF Fun Fact 13607 – Arizona Desert Fish

The discovery of Arizona desert fish is making researchers rethink the history of the world!

In a surprising revelation, researchers at the University of Minnesota uncovered an unexpected treasure trove of longevity within the freshwater fishes of the Arizona desert. Their study, recently published in Scientific Reports, highlights three species within the Ictiobus genus, also known as buffalofishes, with lifespans exceeding 100 years.

This groundbreaking discovery not only shifts our understanding of vertebrate aging but also positions these desert dwellers as potentially key players in aging studies across disciplines.

Longevity of Arizona Desert Fish Known as Buffalofishes

The central figures of this study are the bigmouth buffalo, smallmouth buffalo, and black buffalo. Native to Minnesota, these species often fall victim to misidentification, mistakenly grouped with invasive species like carp. Consequently, inadequate fishing regulations fail to protect these potential longevity lighthouses. The collaborative research effort, led by Alec Lackmann, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota Duluth, delved into the lifespans of these species and unraveled their potential in aging research.

Dr. Lackmann’s approach to determining the age of the buffalofishes diverges from traditional scale examination. The team extracted otoliths, or earstones, from the cranium of the fishes. Like the rings on a tree, these otoliths develop a new layer annually. Through meticulous thin-sectioning and examination under a compound microscope, researchers could count these layers, unlocking the true age of the fish.

Remarkable Findings and Implications

The study’s results were nothing short of extraordinary:

  • Unprecedented longevity among freshwater fishes, with three species living over a century.
  • A population in Apache Lake, Arizona, primarily composed of individuals over 85 years old.
  • The likely survival of original buffalofishes from the 1918 Arizona stocking.
  • The development of a catch-and-release fishery, enhancing our understanding of fish longevity and identification.

Interestingly, these centenarian fishes were originally stocked into Roosevelt Lake, Arizona, in 1918. While their counterparts in Roosevelt Lake faced commercial fishing, the Apache Lake population thrived, undisturbed until recent angling activities.

Collaborative Efforts and Future Prospects

The study also highlights a robust collaboration between conservation anglers and scientists, with anglers contributing to scientific outreach and learning. When anglers observed unique markings on the buffalofishes, they reached out to Dr. Lackmann, initiating a partnership that would lead to this study’s pivotal findings.

Looking ahead, Dr. Lackmann envisions a bright future for studying these unique fish. Their exceptional longevity offers a window into their DNA, physiological processes, and disease resistance across a wide age range. The genus Ictiobus could become a cornerstone in gerontological research, with Apache Lake potentially emerging as a scientific hub for diverse research endeavors.

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Source: “Study uncovers hundred-year lifespans for three freshwater fish species in the Arizona desert” — ScienceDaily


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