Apparently he wasn’t using an underwater walker, hadn’t been to deep-sea bingo recently and wasn’t listening to old Slim Dustry records.
It may sound a little fishy, but scientists say they have just discovered the oldest-known tropical reef fish – an 81-year-old midnight snapper – off the coast of Western Australia
Beats previous record by two decades
The fish has now taken the title of the oldest tropical reef fish recorded anywhere in the world. In doing so, it beat the old record by a whopping two decades.
Australia’s octogenarian fish was found at the Rowley Shoals, about 300km west of Broome, and was part of a study that has revised what we know about the longevity of tropical fish.
The research identified 11 individual fish that were more than 60 years old, including a 79-year-old red bass also found at the Rowley Shoals.
Help understand climate change impact
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) fish biologist Dr Brett Taylor, who led the study, said: “Until now, the oldest fish that we’ve found in shallow, tropical waters have been around 60 years old.”
He added: “We’ve identified two different species here that are becoming octogenarians, and probably older.”
Dr Taylor explained that the research will help researchers to understand how fish length and age will be affected by climate change.
Study done at four WA coastal locations
“We’re observing fish at different latitudes, with varying water temperatures, to better understand how they might react when temperatures warm everywhere,” he said.
The study involved four locations along the WA coast, as well as the protected Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean.
Co-author Dr Stephen Newman, from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, said long-lived fish were generally considered more vulnerable to fishing pressure.
We must manage snapper stocks well
“Snappers make up a large component of commercial fisheries in tropical Australia and they’re also a key target for recreational fishers,” he said.
“So, it’s important that we manage them well, and WA’s fisheries are among the best managed fisheries in the world.”
Marine scientists are able to accurately determine the age of a fish by studying their ear bones. These contain annual growth bands that can be counted in much the same way as tree rings.