Why the axolotl should be your new favourite animal
Wild axolotls are normally a greenish brown black colour
The white ones you see in captivity are ‘leucistic’ and descend from a mutant male that was shipped to Paris in 1863. Axolotls found in captivity are almost always captive bred as there are fewer than 100 left in the wild.
The fabulous feathers around their head are not only fancy, but practical too
They are the creature’s gills and help it to breather underwater. They look feathery because they have many small filaments branching off to increase the surface area, allowing for more gas exchange. Despite having gills, they have lungs, really small and undeveloped lungs. If they find themselves in a situation where they would need to breathe air (such as in shallow water), they can develop their lungs and absorb the gills back into the body, allowing them to breathe on land.
They were a speciality in the Xochimilco area (Mexico City) where they are found
However eating axolotls has been largely discouraged due to their critically endangered nature. Restaurants in other parts of Asia still serve axolotl but these are usually captive bred ones. Apparently they taste like eel. But it is important to be aware of where axolotls come from and the threats they face.
Regeneration is something we see in other amphibians, with the ability to grow a lost limb
Axolotls on the other hand have mastered this art and taken it a step further. Not only are they able to regenerate a leg, but also the jaw, spine, and brain.
“You can cut the spinal cord, crush it, remove a segment, and it will regenerate. You can cut the limbs at any level—the wrist, the elbow, the upper arm—and it will regenerate, and it’s perfect. There is nothing missing, there’s no scarring on the skin at the site of amputation, every tissue is replaced. They can regenerate the same limb 50, 60, 100 times. And every time: perfect.” Professor Stephane Roy of University of Montreal speaking to Scientific American
Although they may be cute and tiny, they are still predators
They eat worms, molluscs, larvae, crustaceans, small fish, and almost anything that they can fit in their mouth. And they don’t even chew. They literally open their mouth and suck in food straight in to their stomach like a vacuum.
And if all that wasn’t enough – they can play the piano, too!