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.