Animals / Nature

Meet the ever young mysterious animal – The Axolotl

Art by SKJ Digital Art Services

You may be familiar with the science behind a starfish regrowing its limbs when cut off or a similar feature in other animals like hydra and lizard tails too. If I were to tell you of yet another amazing creature that not only can regenerate its limbs but almost every part of their bodies then you may be dumbstruck. Yes, it is one such animal that we are going to read about today – the axolotl also called the Mexican walking fish. No no, they are not fishes but are amphibians (like the frog which can live both in water and on land). The name axolotl is supposed to literally mean ‘water monster’ but these animals are so cute looking that one would never even imagine them to be a monster not even in one’s wildest dreams.

The scientific name for axolotls is Ambystoma mexicanum (probably called so since they are native to the Valley of Mexico). They exhibit a property called neoteny which means they retain their larval features even when they attain adulthood. This includes feathery gills and their larval dorsal fin which they use even when they become adults and can step out of the comforts of their watery habitat.

Their features are very unique with flattened heads, eyes without eyelids and an ever ‘smiling’ mouth. Not surprisingly due to their preferred watery habitat, their limbs remain underdeveloped. They have various colour variations ranging from pale white to gray or black colour. Upon maturity, it is easily possible to distinguish between the males and females with the males developing a longer tail to aid in depositing their sperm while the females sport wider bodies to accommodate the eggs they carry within them. These axolotls prefer a life of solitude and are known to come together very rarely and that too only for mating purposes.

With all this said about its features, let us talk about the most important characteristic of these animals. Axolotls are capable of regeneration and thus have been studied very extensively by scientists in the hope to find out the factors which make them so. For those who don’t know what regeneration is: it is the property by which a living being or tissue can heal, renew or restore itself after an injury. For example, if you cut off one of the limbs of a starfish it can regrow it in no time. Imagine if this property could be induced in humans, how useful it would be to many patients with amputated limbs etc. Axolotls can regenerate not just their limbs but also most of their internal organs which make it even more awesome an animal to study.

With all this demand on axolotls and also natural predators in its habitat it was no surprise that they very soon became endangered and now efforts are on to at least breed them to increase the dwindling population of this unique animal. Till then all we could do is to wonder in awe as we think of this ever-youthful animal.

To read more on axolotls click:

Spread the love of science

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *