SEA LIFE Manchester’s oldest resident, Alan the lungfish, is a blast from the past

Alan is one of the stars of the aquarium’s new Jurassic Ranger exhibit, a step back in time where visitors can learn about prehistoric creatures and interact with their descendants.

He was around when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his speech, and when the Berlin Wall fell. He’s been alive through 14 British prime ministers – right back to Winston Churchill!


Dan McLaughlan, Curator at SEA LIFE Manchester said:

“Alan is a very calm fish who enjoys the simple things in life – an evening stroll along around the tank or a brisk morning walk are his favourite pastimes. I guess it’s true that you mellow with age!”

Photos © Jason Lock Photography


This primitive-looking fish is thought to be around 60 years old, but his species is a whole lot older.


Lungfish belong to the subclass Dipnoi. They’re the oldest lineage of bony jawed fish still alive today, first appearing about 400 million years ago. There are six species, and they can be found in rivers and lakes of Africa, South America and Australia. They’re so old that they pre-date any other animal living on land and have been dubbed ‘living fossils’ because of how little they’ve changed. They don’t have very good eyesight, but they make up for that with strong senses of taste and smell and a sensitivity to pressure. They’re quite unusual among fish because they chew their food.


Dipnoi fish have either one or two lungs, evolved from the swim bladder (found in many other fish and used for buoyancy). They can use these organs to breathe air, and their hind fins allow them to push themselves along a surface in a very basic form of walking.

These ancient fish provide a fascinating glimpse into the transition of animals from the water to the land.


Find out more about the new exhibition on SEA LIFE Manchester’s website.