Get ready to embark on an exciting journey into the underwater world as we uncover some of the amazing facts about Axolotls. These extraordinary creatures, often called the “Mexican walking fish,” have some mind-blowing features that set them apart from the rest. From their magical ability to regrow body parts to their special way of eating, Axolotls are full of surprises.
So, let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of Axolotls and the amazing things that make them so special!
25 Amazing Facts About Axolotls
1. Axolotls Are a Type of Salamander
Axolotls are special salamanders. Unlike their amphibian buddies, they keep their gills even as they grow up. This means they can’t live on land and spend their whole lives in the water.
2. The Axolotl has a Unique Anatomy Feature Called Neoteny
The Axolotl has a unique feature in its anatomy called neoteny. Neoteny is a term used to describe animals that retain their juvenile characteristics until adulthood, without undergoing many phases of change.
3. Axolotls Always Look Like an Adorable Baby
Axolotls always look like adorable babies because they’re “neotenic,” which means they grow up without losing their baby-like features. Unlike other amphibians, like the regular salamander, axolotls don’t grow lungs and stay in the water. They keep their cute feathery gills on the outside and never develop teeth. Instead, they use a suction method to eat their food.
When axolotls eat, their mouths stay open for a bit after swallowing, making it seem like they’re smiling. Some axolotls have mouths that turn up a little, giving them a constant smiling appearance. However, it’s important to note that they’re not smiling – it’s just the way they look, and they don’t express emotions like humans do.
4. Axolotls Have a Large Genome
Axolotls have a large genome, with 32 billion DNA bases, which is 10 times the size of a human’s genome. Sequencing the DNA of axolotls is a challenging task for scientists, but it’s crucial because it helps researchers understand how axolotls use stem cells to regenerate tissue.
Scientists have already identified two genes involved in regeneration in axolotls. Due to their remarkable regenerative abilities, researchers are expanding their studies to include regeneration in other internal organs and the retina.
The axolotl is often referred to as the “white mice of amphibians” in research labs because of its unique genetic profile and its potential to unlock secrets related to evolution and regeneration, according to the Smithsonian.
5. Axolotls Vary in Color
Axolotls display a variety of color patterns determined by four different genes. In the wild, they are often brown or black with specks of gold or olive. Similar to other salamanders, axolotls can change their color to blend in with their surroundings, helping them camouflage effectively.
Lighter-colored axolotls, such as albino, leucistic (with reduced pigmentation), and pink variants, are more commonly found in animals bred in captivity. The feathery gills on the back of an axolotl’s head also have pigmentation, especially noticeable in the bright red hue present in albino axolotls.
6. An Average Axolotl is About 20-25 Centimeters Long
An average axolotl is about 20-25 centimeters long. That’s roughly the same size as a full-grown guinea pig or a regular-sized envelope.
7. Axolotl Can Regenerate Their Body Organs and Lost Limbs
Axolotls have an incredible superpower – they can regrow body organs and lost limbs. Astonishingly, an axolotl can grow back a lost limb in just a few weeks. What’s even more amazing is that it can regenerate its lungs, heart, spinal cord, and even parts of its brain if it suffers a head injury, all without leaving any scars.
A study from the University of Minnesota discovered that a protein called c-Fos plays a crucial role in this regeneration process. Professor Stephane Roy from the University of Montreal explained that you can cut the spinal cord, crush it, or remove a segment, and it will regenerate.
The same goes for limbs – whether you cut them at the wrist, elbow, or upper arm, they will regenerate perfectly, without any scarring. Axolotls can do this over and over again, regenerating the same limb 50, 60, or even 100 times, and each time, it’s perfect.
8. Axolotls Can Regrow Their Limb Up to 5 Times. Then Stops
Axolotls are amazing at regrowing limbs, but there’s a limit. Some say they can do it up to five times, then it stops. However, research from Harvard University challenges this idea. According to the study, there seems to be a limit to how many times axolotls can regrow a limb. After the fifth time, the regrowth potential decreases, and scar tissue starts to form instead of a fully functional limb.
9. Axolotls Stay Toothless
Axolotls stay toothless because they hardly change from birth. So, how do they eat? They rely on suction power! Axolotls have a surprisingly strong sucking force that they use to crush and devour their prey.
10. Axolotls Can Reproduce Up to Three Times a Year
Axolotls can reproduce up to three times a year. It’s important to note that their breeding frequency may vary depending on whether they are in the wild or in captivity.
11. Young Axolotls are Cannibals
Some young axolotls are cannibals! Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that many young axolotls might not hesitate to nibble on their brothers and sisters after they’re born.
12. Axolotls are Native to Just One Place in the World
Axolotls are native to just one place in the world, and unfortunately, their habitat is in trouble. Originally living in two high-altitude lakes in Mexico City, they are now only found in the wild in Lake Xochimilco in southern Mexico City. The other lake they used to inhabit, Lake Chalco in central Mexico City, was drained to prevent flooding.
Lake Xochimilco, their current home, has been reduced to a series of canals, and axolotls face scarcity due to habitat loss and the presence of predatory carp and tilapia.
13. The Feathery Branches on Each Side are Gills
The feathery branches on each side of the axolotl’s head are its gills. Axolotls keep these gills, but they also have fully functional lungs. They often swim to the surface to gulp air.
14. Axolotls are Carnivores
Axolotls are carnivores, meaning they eat a variety of foods like fish, worms, insects, and crustaceans. They’re not very picky and will happily munch on both dead and live prey. In captivity, they often feast on brine shrimp, beef liver strips, earthworms, fish pellets, and more.
Young axolotls, especially when food is scarce, may resort to cannibalism by biting off a body part from a nearby family member. Luckily, due to their impressive regeneration ability, the injured axolotl can easily grow back the lost body part.
15. The Axolotl are Resistant to Cancer
The axolotl is incredibly resilient to cancer, being over 1,000 times more resistant than mammals. Scientists are optimistic that by understanding the axolotl’s natural resistance, we might find ways to eliminate cancer and potentially extend human lifespans in the future.
16. The Axolotl Doesn’t Chew its Food
The axolotl doesn’t chew its food; instead, it feeds through suction. It has special rakers that interlock and close the gill slits as it sucks food into its mouth. Axolotls are carnivorous and enjoy a diet of worms, tadpoles, insects, and even small fish.
17. Axolotl Makes Good Use of Gravel
As a bottom feeder, the Axolotl efficiently utilizes gravel that gets sucked up with its food. This gravel often contains small aquatic life that enters the Axolotl’s mouth during feeding. Surprisingly, this is beneficial.
The fish employs the consumed gravel to grind its food, similar to how birds use grit to aid digestion. Additionally, the Axolotl uses gravel in its body to regulate buoyancy, showcasing another interesting aspect of its adaptation.
18. The Axolotl Has Very Few Predators
Despite being critically endangered, the Axolotl has very few predators. In the wild, it mostly fends for itself, but it does face a couple of aquatic competitors that see the Mexican Walking Fish as part of their food chain. Carp and Tilapia are a few creatures that happen to find the Axolotl tasty.
19. The Axolotl is Critically Endangered
The axolotl is critically endangered, existing solely in a small region in Mexico. Occupying less than four square miles, their habitat is under severe threat due to development, pollution, and invasive species.
While their significance in scientific research and successful breeding in captivity offers hope for their survival, their wild population has drastically declined, with estimates suggesting a 90% decrease in 2009.
In 2015, they were declared extinct in the wild, but a week later, one was found, highlighting the precarious state of their existence.
20. The Term “Axolotl” Comes from the Ancient Aztecs
The term “Axolotl” comes from the Ancient Aztecs, who held these creatures in high regard, and it translates to mean ‘water dog.’ The Axolotl has a mythological connection to Xolotl, an Aztec god with a dog’s head. Xolotl was associated with fire, lightning, deformities, and death in Aztec mythology.
According to the myth, the Aztec gods needed to sacrifice themselves to the sun to keep it alive and moving across the sky. However, Xolotl, fearing sacrifice, transformed into a maguey plant and then into an Axolotl to hide.
21. Around 1,000 Axolotls are Remaining
The exact number of axolotls remaining in the wild is uncertain, but it is estimated that around 1,000 axolotls remain. This is a concerningly small number, especially considering the significant number of eggs laid by each breeding pair.
Conservation efforts are focused on various strategies, including raising the water level of Lake Xochimilco, restoring the axolotls’ habitat, and reducing the population of invasive fish species like tilapia and carp.
These invasive species were introduced by the Mexican government to address food insecurity for low-income households, inadvertently impacting the axolotls’ environment.
22. The Male and Female Can be Distinguished Easily
The male and female Mexican walking fish are easy to distinguish. Adult males typically have a large, broad head, eyelid-less eyes, a longer tail, and a swollen cloaca lined with papillae.
On the other hand, females have a smaller cloaca, a round and plump body, and are often shorter than males, though not always.
These differences in physical characteristics make it relatively straightforward to identify the gender of the Mexican walking fish.
23. The Axolotl’s Breeding Season Starts Early
The Axolotl’s breeding season starts early in the calendar year, usually from March to June. Since these creatures reach sexual maturity by around 6 months of age, spawning occurs during late winter when water temperatures and levels are more suitable.
In the wild, they typically breed once a year, but in captivity, two or even three breeding cycles can be possible. This reproductive behavior aligns with the Axolotl’s life cycle, and the timing is influenced by environmental factors like temperature and water conditions.
24. Axolotls Courtship Rituals Involve Dancing
Axolotls have unique courtship rituals that involve dancing. When they reach six months of age, it’s mating time. The process starts with adults rubbing each other’s cloacal region and then engaging in a circular, dance-like movement.
Females typically lay around 100 to 300 eggs and breed once a year in the wild, but more frequently in captivity. Once the eggs are laid, there is no further parental involvement. The eggs hatch after 10 to 14 days, and the young axolotls are left to fend for themselves.
25. Researchers are Actively Promoting Axolotl Breeding
Researchers are actively promoting Axolotl breeding by constructing ‘shelters’ in Xochimilco. These shelters consist of sacks filled with rocks and reedy plants, serving as filters around a designated area.
Cleaner water is pumped into this space, creating improved conditions within the cleanest part of their diminishing habitat. These efforts aim to enhance the breeding environment for Axolotls in an attempt to support their population and conservation in the wild.
You may also like:
- 10 Interesting Facts about Dalmatians The Dog
- 11 Interesting Facts About Dogs You Probably Didn’t Know
And there you have it – a splash into the incredible world of Axolotls and some awesome facts about Axolotls! From their cute smiles to their superpowers of regrowing body parts, these aquatic wonders are truly one-of-a-kind. As we wrap up our adventure, let’s remember the importance of cherishing and protecting these unique creatures, ensuring that future generations can also marvel at the magic of Axolotls.
So, next time you spot an Axolotl, you’ll have a bunch of cool facts to share with your friends and family. Until then, happy exploring the wonders of nature!
How many of these facts about Axolotls did you already know? Put them in the comment section below.