It’s called a walking fish, but it’s actually not a fish, even though this amphibian remains in the water for all of his life.
In this post, we’ll present you with the ultimate list of Axolotl Facts, a fascinating creature that lives in lakes.
1. It’s a particular type of amphibian
The axolotl is a neotenic salamander, which simply means they reach maturity without undergoing a metamorphosis.
In human beings, this condition is called progenesis which makes people suffering from it retain juvenile characteristics when growing up and reaching sexual maturity.
2. They stay in the water
One of these characteristics that prove they are neotenic is that they prefer to stay in the water for the rest of their life.
What’s even more remarkable is that they could perfectly live a life walking the earth as they actually grow lungs.
3. This is unlike their closest relative
The closest relative of the axolotl is the tiger salamander, the largest type of terrestrial salamander in North America.
It’s believed that the neoteny is more of a survival mechanism than anything else. By staying in the water they can reproduce and survive in a safer environment while at the same time requiring less food consumption than adult salamanders.
4. This little trick makes them grow up instantly
Scientists experimented by giving an axolotl a shot of iodine. This caused a rush of hormones that instantly transformed the neotenic axolotl into a mature one that actually resembles an adult tiger salamander.
Please do not try this at home. The wrong dosage will instantly kill the axolotl and when giving an iodine shot, their life expectancy reduces to just one more year.
5. The feathers on their heads have a purpose
What appears to be feathers sticking out of their heads as if they just went to the beauty salon is in fact the reason they can survive underwater.
Yes, these are their gills, which they obviously have to keep to breathe, just as any other fish does.
6. Regenerating pieces of its brain is no problem
One of the most amazing axolotl facts is that it can generate just about any part of its body easily. This includes limbs, the spinal cord, and even its brain.
Professor Stephane Roy of the University of Montreal mentions that “you can cut the limb of an axolotl and it will regrow perfectly. You won’t even see a scar.” Even more amazing, he also mentions that “you can even cut part of the spinal cord of the axolotl and the same thing will happen.”
This can happen over 100 times and the limb or any other part of the body will grow back perfectly.
7. Doctors are close to unlocking the axolotl’s genetic code
Having the ability to regrow part of the body is a truly astounding feature, something we definitely would want to possess.
This doesn’t seem likely, but doctors at the University of Kentucky do hope that by decoding the genetic code of axolotls, they will be able to integrate their findings into human medicine.
Being able to help with spinal cord injury, stroke, joint repair, and many other things that are currently out of reach.
8. Wild axolotls aren’t usually white
Have you ever seen some pictures of white axolotls? Don’t be mistaken with the thought that this is their true color. In the wild, they are usually brown or black.
Just as peacocks, axolotls can suffer from a condition called leucism, which removes all pigment from the skin so they become extremely pale.
They do look cute though, don’t they, the leucistic axolotls?
9. Wild axolotls only live here
Axolotls can be found all over the world in captivity. But if you want to spot some in the world, then there’s only one place you can go to.
The only place you’ll find them is in the lakes, ponds, and canals of Xochimilco, Mexico, a place just south of the capital of the country, Mexico City.
10. Wild axolotls are in great danger
Mexico City is a huge city, and as it expands south, the axolotl population drastically decreased.
So much that they are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s annual Red List of threatened species.
11. They were thought to be extinct
They are only on the list of critically endangered species because there were a few sightings in the only lake that they appear in the wild, the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals of Mexico City.
If these sightings hadn’t happened, the idea that they still exist in the wild would have been absurd, and they would only exist in captivity.
Luckily, this isn’t true and the hope their population will expand again remains.
12. It’s important they breed in the wild
So why don’t we just use the lake as a natural breeding ground for the axolotls? After all, if that’s the only place they exist in the wild it should be pretty easy, right?
The main problem is that releasing axolotls, that have been born in captivity, in the wild could easily wipe out the entire wild population as it could cause a fatal fungus to spread.
It looks like they are solely responsible for their own existence in the wild and nothing we can really do about it.
13. Just don’t do this
Before Mexico City became a huge metropolis, axolotls weren’t really endangered at all. The locals actually thought the meat of this small salamander was delicious and a real delicacy.
Somebody named Francesco Clavigero wrote in 1787: “The axolotl is wholesome to eat and is of much the same taste with an eel. It is thought to be particularly useful in cases of consumption.”
14. This Japanese restaurant serves them
Still can’t resist and want to know whether or not axolotls really taste like eels? then there’s a place in Osaka you can go to right now.
Apparently, they only serve deep-fried axolotls and the price in 2013 was 1,300 yen (USD 13).
If you want to go all freaky, then the Chinjuya restaurant in Yokohama will not only allow you to eat deep-fried axolotl, but also giant isopods, camel meat, and crocodile.
How about that for a change? deep-fried axolotl on a bed of salad.
15. They have a unique resistance to cancer
One of those amazing axolotl facts is that they are up to 1000 times more resistant to cancer than human beings, and most other mammals for that matter.
Just as with the regeneration process, scientists are trying to figure out if we can learn from their genetic code why they are so resistant, and how we could further prevent cancer in the future.
We definitely need to keep these cute salamanders around!
16. Their spine isn’t completely solid
In fact, their entire skeleton is cartilage. This means that because they stay juvenile, their bones don’t fully calcify.
What is fully developed, however, is their extremely sharp teeth. Gotta have those!
17. Axolotls are carnivores and don’t chew their food
The teeth are only used to actually kill the prey if needed, they don’t actually use their teeth to chew their food.
So what do they do? They use vacuum force to literally suck the food directly into their stomach.
In the wild, they eat worms, insects, small fish, and any other goodies they come across as they are far from picky!
18. They are pretty small
Because they don’t grow as other adult salamanders, such as their closest relative, the tiger salamander, the “adult” axolotl remains pretty small.
An axolotl reaches “full maturity” at the age of 18-24 months, and at this age, their length is only 15 to 45 centimeters (6 to 18 in), although a size close to 23 centimeters (9 in) is most common.
Axolotls of over 30 centimeters (12 in) tall are very unusual.
19. How can you be heavy without fully developed bones?
That’s why axolotls are very lightweight creatures and weigh only a few 100 grams or less than half a pound.
20. Breeding should be a problem
The main reason for this is that female axolotl has very wide bodies compared to males, which gives them an egg capacity of about 1000 eggs.
And yes, they can lay those in one time!
This is almost double the egg capacity of any other type of amphibian, which has a maximum capacity of about 450 eggs.
21. They can communicate but don’t really like to
But not in the sense we think of when we hear the word communicate. They don’t communicate a lot, and when they do, they simply use chemical cues.
If you observe the axolotl floating around in an aquarium, you’ll notice that they just like to mind their own business and don’t really socialize with their fellow axolotls.
22. Their name comes from an Aztec God
The name of this God was “Xolotl” and he was represented by a dog-head. The God the Aztecs worshipped named Xolotl was actually the God of the underworld.
The legend goes that this God was afraid to sacrifice himself and hid in the water, only to be transformed into an axolotl.
And that’s how this amazing creature got its name!
23. Aztecs recognized their medical value
Back in the day of the Aztecs, there weren’t any pharmacies around with hundreds of types of medicine to cure you of your diseases.
They used natural remedies to help and cure their illness, and the axolotls were consumed heavily by the Aztecs for this reason.
If Aztecs had a cough, they were presented with a syrup made of axolotls. That surely solved the issue in no time.
24. They are mostly placid creatures
Just as Japanese spider crabs, axolotls are mostly placid creatures, which means they don’t get excited fast.
They love to spend their days alone, scouring the bottom of the lake (in the wild) or aquarium (in captivity) for food.
But they remain very cute though.
25. Many people want to own one as a pet
If you’re into aquariums and want to add an amazing creature to your collection of exotic animals, then axolotls are the perfect pet for you!
Their calm nature will definitely ensure you yourself can calm down as well.
Oh, and did we say they are cute to look at?
That’s right, axolotls are pretty amazing creatures!