Saturday, November 16, 2013

Creature Feature #32: Axolotl

This amphibian rather resembles the juvenile form of a salamander, but it actually exhibits neoteny - meaning it reaches breeding maturity without attaining an “adult” form. It lacks the hormone that stimulates the thyroid to produce the transformation.

Although a popular pet, the axolotl is almost extinct in the wild. Originally found in two lakes of Mexico, one has now been drained completely and the other reduced to a series of canals running near Mexico City. There is every likelihood that soon only captive axolotls will remain.

Other interesting features of the bizarre creature are its ability to regenerate limbs. They are quite vicious little beggars, and when kept in the same aquarium will fight, often biting each others arms or legs off. These will regrow over a period of months, and sometimes the original injury will also heal, leaving the critter with additional limbs. They can also accept transplants easily and are bred to be studied in the lab.

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