Bigmouth Buffalo Ictiobus cyprinellus sets freshwater teleost record as improved age analysis reveals centenarian longevity

Commun Biol. 2019 May 23;2:197. doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0452-0. eCollection 2019.


Understanding the age structure and population dynamics of harvested species is crucial for sustainability, especially in fisheries. The Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is a fish endemic to the Mississippi and Hudson Bay drainages. A valued food-fish for centuries, they are now a prized sportfish as night bowfishing has become a million-dollar industry in the past decade. All harvest is virtually unregulated and unstudied, and Bigmouth Buffalo are declining while little is known about their biology. Using thin-sectioned otoliths and bomb-radiocarbon dating, we find Bigmouth Buffalo can reach 112 years of age, more than quadrupling previous longevity estimates, making this the oldest known freshwater teleost (~12,000 species). We document numerous populations that are comprised largely (85-90%) of individuals over 80 years old, suggesting long-term recruitment failure since dam construction in the 1930s. Our findings indicate Bigmouth Buffalo require urgent attention, while other understudied fishes may be threatened by similar ecological neglect.

Keywords: Ageing; Conservation biology; Freshwater ecology; Ichthyology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Cypriniformes / genetics*
  • Cypriniformes / physiology*
  • Ecology
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Fisheries
  • Fossils
  • Fresh Water
  • Lakes*
  • Longevity / genetics*
  • Male
  • Minnesota
  • Population Dynamics
  • Radiometric Dating
  • Rivers*