When I met "Granddad" in 1978--the year I started volunteering, and ultimately working for pay for the next three years at Shedd Aquarium--he was just about to celebrate his 45th anniversary as a South Loop resident. And I thought he was old then! Yesterday, the famous Australian Lungfish celebrated 80 years in his river habitat home at the Shedd. He's been living in the South Loop a lot longer than I have. I've only been here 19 years. But we both came to live here during the month of September, although I arrived 61 years later.
So I went up there yesterday to help him celebrate his big day. I've been visiting Shedd since I was a toddler. My dad used to bring me to see the turtles in a shallow pool near the entrance. Which was replaced by a coral reef decades ago.
Granddad is probably something like 90 years old now, give or take. Almost old enough to be my granddad. No one will know exactly until he passes away how old he is--which probably won't happen until he's way past 100. Australian Lungfish are long lived. The whole species goes back hundreds of millions of years. And he has a good life lolling around in his tank, with friends, good food and a lot of attention.
The Queensland Lungfish (its other name) eats slow-moving aquatic creatures--like worms and crayfish and shrimp and such. In captivity, lungfish love things like lettuce and other veggies; not to mention grapes and bananas. They love a nice varied diet. And they have the ability to swim up to the surface and breathe air through their mouths, too. Which is probably one of the things that's allowed them to survive as a species all these millions of years.
Granddad's tasty-looking birthday cake, which was served after a few congratulatory speeches, was made of seaweed, raspberries and carrots, among other things. And it was thrown right into the water with him. He and his pals noshed on it while we guests were given information about Australia--and little pins with both the Australian and US flags on them.
Granddad, who's been here since the World's Fair of 1933--which was held near the Shedd on Northerly Island--didn't seem too interested in going back home. He's pretty happy in the home he's been in for 80 years.