If you’ve seen a peculiar creature with colorful frilly gills and small legs like a lizard that lives in the water, you’ve likely seen an axolotl. But what is an axolotl? They’re incredibly unusual creatures that make great pets since they’re easy to care for and can grow up to a foot long.
But that’s not all to enjoy about these creatures with ‘forever smiles.’ If you want some cool facts about axolotls, keep on reading.
1. They Can Regrow Their Body Parts
One of the coolest things about axolotls is their regenerative abilities. Axolotls can regrow limbs, tails, and even more complex body parts such as their spines and parts of their brains and hearts.
2. They Have a Long Lifespan
Axolotls are incredibly resilient and capable of surviving up to 10 years in captivity. Some have even been reported to live up to 15 or 20 years.
3. Axolotls Are Indigenous to Mexico
As the name may suggest, Axolotls are native to Mexico. They’re named after the Aztec god ‘Xolotl,’ which means dog, and ‘atl,’ which means water in Nahuatl.
They used to be found in many high-altitude lakes throughout the country, especially Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco. But due to urbanization and invasive fish species that compete with them for prey, they’re now only found in Lake Xochimilco.
4. They’re Close Relatives of the Tiger Salamander
Axolotls are part of the salamander family and are particularly similar to tiger salamanders, so much so that they can produce offspring. Axolotls in the wild are usually dark brown or olive-colored. However, some of these hybrid offspring between tiger salamanders and axolotls can be albino, and they come in three main variations.
Golden albinos are named so because of their yellowish gold appearance. Axanthic albinos are slightly different in that they’re almost white, but their skin becomes yellow with age.
White albinos are nearly indistinguishable from leucistic axolotls, except their eyes may be pink, red, or clear. They’re also pure white and have red or pink gills.
If you’re looking to fill an old fish tank, check out this albino axolotl. They’re beautiful and unique.
5. They’re Valuable for Scientific Research
Axolotls are useful to researchers for more than just their regenerative powers. They’re the most widely-studied salamanders in the world because of their regeneration, capability to accept organ transplants and their resistance to cancer.
Research about axolotls has already helped humans discover the causes of spina bifida in humans and how cells and organs develop and function in vertebrates.
6. What Is an Axolotl? An Amphibious Animal
Axolotls are unusual in that although they spend their entire lives underwater, they’re actually amphibious. They’re neotenic, meaning that they keep their larval stage features even as full adults.
Other types of amphibians gradually lose their gills and other features that allow them to live underwater in favor of living exclusively above ground. But axolotls use them throughout their entire lives.
7. They’re Nocturnal
Because of their weak eyesight, these are nocturnal animals and instead find prey through their sense of smell and motion. To aid this, they have sensory organs called lateral line organs that are located on the sides of their head and tail.
8. They Have an Incredibly Large Genome
The human genome has around 3 billion base pairs. Axolotls by comparison, have 32 billion base pairs. This is the largest genome ever fully sequenced, being completed by a team of scientists in Europe in 2018.
9. They’re Super Fast Swimmers
Though they’re small, these amphibians in Mexico can reach impressive speeding speeds of up to 10 miles per hour. For reference, humans can swim around 5 to 6mph at their very fastest.
10. Axolotls Don’t Chew Their Food
While most carnivorous fish chew their food, axolotl teeth are only for gripping. Instead, they swallow their food whole, sucking in water with their prey to wash it down.
Axolotls are Fascinating
Axolotls make great pets since they’re low maintenance, well-mannered, and very beautiful with their variety of colors. Albino axolotls specifically are some of the most popular types for people to keep as pets.
Hopefully, this article answered ‘what is an axolotl’ for you. And if this axolotls guide made you excited about these creatures, don’t forget to check out more facts about other animals and pets.