In the hot, dry Arizona desert, scientists have stumbled upon a surprising discovery: a group of fish that can live for over 100 years!
This remarkable find includes three types of fish, all belonging to a group known as buffalofishes, and it’s making researchers rethink what they know about how animals age.
The research, led by Alec Lackmann of the University of Minnesota Duluth, looked closely at these fish.
Before now, people often got these buffalofishes mixed up with other fish, like carp, and didn’t protect them the way they should.
But this study shows that we might have a lot to learn from these old fish about aging and staying healthy for a long time.
Buffalofishes have been around in places like Minnesota for ages. But the ones in this study were from Apache Lake, a big pool of water in Arizona created by a dam.
These fish weren’t always in the desert. Back in 1918, humans moved them from the Midwest to Arizona, but they were left alone and grew old without much notice until some anglers started catching them.
These anglers weren’t out to fry up their catches. They love fish and want to protect them. They noticed that the fish had unique orange and black spots and wanted to know more about why these fish were so different.
One of the anglers, Stuart Black, found Lackmann’s research on the internet and invited him to go fishing to learn more about these old fish.
Lackmann has a special way of telling how old a fish is. Instead of looking at their scales, he looks inside their heads at something called otoliths, which are like little stones in their ears.
These stones grow a new layer each year, so by looking at them under a microscope, you can count the layers and figure out how old the fish is, just like counting the rings on a tree stump.
By using this method on the fish they caught, Lackmann and his team made an amazing find. Some of the fish swimming around today were from the original group put there a hundred years ago!
And not just one type of fish, but three different types, all living longer than a century, which is something very special and rare in freshwater fish.
This is exciting for scientists because these buffalofishes might hold secrets about getting old. Most animals, including us humans, change a lot as we age, and not always in good ways.
But these fish might have some kind of “fountain of youth” that helps them stay healthy for a long time.
By studying them more, scientists hope to learn about their DNA, how their bodies work, how they fight off sickness, and how all of this changes as they get really, really old.
The researchers believe that these buffalofishes might teach us important lessons about aging that could help other animals and maybe even people live longer, healthier lives.
They think that Apache Lake, this unexpected spot in the desert, could become a center for lots of new scientific studies.
For now, though, this research is just the beginning.
It’s a peek into the lives of some of the oldest living creatures around, and it’s a reminder of how much more there is to learn about the natural world, even in places where you might least expect to find such wonders.
Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.