Welcome to Weird Wednesday. Every other Wednesday we post about an unusual or lesser known species.
You may already be familiar with this fascinating (and adorable) creature. Many axolotls exist in captivity and some people even keep them as pets. In fact, we have a few here in the EARTH Discovery Center. However, they are very rare in the wild. Axolotls are only found in the lake complex of Xochimilco near Mexico City. Their wild populations are in danger due to water contamination. They were once also found in Lake Chalco, however this lake no longer exists as it was artificially drained.
We currently have four axolotls in the EARTH Discovery Center. They’re fairly small right now, but these animals sometimes grow to be 12 inches in length!
What makes axolotls so weird?
They’re the fish that isn’t actually a fish…
They are sometimes called “walking fish”, however they aren’t fish at all! While they do have gills and live underwater, Axolotls are actually amphibians. The name axolotl is believed to be from the Aztec words for “atl” meaning water, and “xolotl” meaning monster or dog. In Aztec mythology, the god of deformations and death is known as Xolotl and the axolotl was one of his animal forms.
They never grow up…
Axolotls are neotenic. This means that they retain larval traits even when they are fully grown and sexually mature. For example, most amphibians lose their gills as they reach adulthood and live on land, but axolotls keep their feathery gills and remain entirely aquatic into adulthood. They also retain their tadpole like dorsal fin. It is possible for an axolotl to undergo metamorphosis and emerge from the water, but it is extremely rare for this to occur naturally.
It’s not that big of a deal if they lose a limb…
Axolotls have remarkable healing abilities and can regenerate body tissue without any evidence of scarring. If one loses it’s limb, it will grow back over time. They are even capable of regenerating organs such as their heart and kidneys.