YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
Happy New Year everyone!
In this edition of Wowzerful, we’re introducing a one-of-a-kind creature you can only find natively in one lake in the entire world!
Also known as water dogs or Mexican walking fish, the axolotl is a one-of-a-kind salamander with some genuinely quirky traits.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes these little carnivores so unique!
One look at an axolotl (pronounced “ax-oh-lot-ul”), and you’ll probably be instantly in love or completely creeped out.
With lizard-like legs, a set of 6 gills branching off their neck, a goofy grin, a tail like a tadpole, and a range of colours, they’re one of the more visually interesting animals you’ll run across.
If you want to see one in the wild, you’ll need to journey to the lakes and canals of Lake Xochimilco, Mexico — the only place on Earth they exist.
Farming for the pet industry, draining of nearby lakes, and urban expansion into their natural habitat have left wild axolotls in a precarious place and earned them a critically endangered designation.
As amphibians, they prefer wet environments.
However, their legs make it possible to make short trips above the surface as well.
Unlike most amphibians, axolotls never go through metamorphosis — a feature known as neoteny.
Instead, they’re born with all the features they need to explore the world around them.
This means they never lose their gills but also have functional lungs!
But the most Wowzerful ability in the axolotl’s toolbox is regeneration.
And we’re not just talking a tail or a toe here!
Researchers have seen axolotls regenerate broken spines, jaws, and even brains not only once but up to five times!
We still don’t fully understand how axolotls accomplish this crazy feat, but scientists continue to investigate how we might use this ability as humans.
While you’ll likely never see one in the wild, axolotls are popular pets with a lifespan of a decade or more.
So if you pop down to your local pet store, you might just find one!
Lake Xochimilco, Mexico
Named by the ancient Aztecs (and considered mythological gods) axolotl comes from the words Xolotl meaning dog and Atl meaning water. Hence, their nickname water dogs.
A single clutch of axolotl eggs can include up to 1500 eggs — each laid individually! That’s a lot of work!
Don’t let their cute face fool you. Axolotls are carnivorous predators dining on worms, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, and small fish.
Wild axolotls are often brown and green with dark eyes. However, pet breeders have created a wide range of colour options, including albino, melanoid, leucistic, and axanthic varieties.
Axolotls like it chilly. While you might think of warmer climates (such as deserts and jungles) when you think of weather in Mexico, axolotls prefer a much more temperate habitat — thriving in waters between 15.5º C and 17.8º C(60º F and 64º F).
Axolotls are nocturnal and mostly blind, relying on sound and smell to search out their food in the dark.
Axolotls have no teeth! Instead, they rely on suction to eat their prey.
Never challenge an axolotl to a staring contest! They have no eyelids and can’t blink.
The axolotl has one of the most complex genetic makeups ever sequenced. This 20 to 30 cm (10 to 12 in) creature has a genetic sequence 10-times longer than a human being!
Check out this video full of cute axolotls and axolotl facts.