Axolotl – A Walking Fish That can Regenerate Limbs

By Anupum Pant

If you are looking at an Axolotl for the first time, it will confuse you. With an oddly shaped body that resembles both a catfish and a salamander, you’ll wonder if it lives in water or on land. [Image]

What is it?

A fish? Axolotl, commonly known as the Mexican Walking Fish, isn’t actually a fish. It is an amphibian, which means it has both lungs and gills. They almost never come out of water, hold their breath and take in oxygen using their gills (those three pairs of parts coming out at the back of its head are the gills). They can hold their breath for a year, beat that Mr. David Blaine.

Or Salamanders? They are closely related to salamanders and interestingly the adult Axolotls look like baby Salamanders. They have long abandoned the usual amphibian-transformation from a larva stage to an adult. Unlike Salamanders, they don’t transform into adults that can live outside water. They stay in water and walk around on the water-bed.

However, strange species of Axolotl was once delivered to a zoologist Auguste Duméril, which had somehow transformed like salamanders and would happily come out of water. But this transformation (metamorphosis) shortened their life span. Later it was found that this process can be artificially triggered by injecting iodine. (Do NOT try this at home)

As pets: Today, these animals are fairly common and are used as exotic pets all around the world. Especially in Japan, people love to have them in their aquariums.

Side note: Like several other Pokémon based on real animals, Whooper and Mudkip were actually based on Axolotls.

Regenerative Powers

Besides having the ability to walk underwater and its unusual appearance, there is something that is much more interesting about them. Unlike, almost any other vertebrate, they have the power to regenerate various cells. Not just cells, Axolotls can regenerate complete body parts – limbs, gills, eyes, kidneys, even large portions of its liver and its heart muscle. Even portions of its spine and brain can be regenerated. They are able to grow back a severed limb in span of few months. This is the reason scientists love these creatures and conduct a number of studies on them every year.

Tardigrades – Toughest Creatures on Earth

By Anupum Pant

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So, if you think elephants or cockroaches are tough, that could be because you probably haven’t heard about these amazing creatures called Tardigrades (picture).

What are Tardigrades?

Tardigrades, also known as moss piglets or waterbears, are oddly cute little animals that live in water and feed on moss. Their size ranges from 0.1 mm to 1.5 mm and they have eight legs (they walk like bears). The most extreme thing about these extremophiles is that they can survive almost anything (actually, they kind of die for a while with an option to come back to life later). Here is a list of things Tardigrades can survive. They can:

  • Survive without water and food for 10 years.
  • Waddle away in the vacuüm of space (for 10 days & get exposed UV radiation), come back and walk around as if nothing happened.
  • Survive 1000 times more radiation that would kill an elephant.
  • Live through extremely low temperatures (almost absolute zero) or high temperatures (~150 degree Centigrade)
  • Repair their own DNA after getting exposed to lethal amounts of radiation.
  • Survive pressures of about 300 Jumbo jets stacked on a person. (6 times more than the deepest ocean trenches)

Scientists love them

People at NASA and the European Space Agency love doing tests on them because they think, Tardigrades can help them understand the origin of life on earth (probably by supporting Panspermia). Also, scientists want to find out more about their extreme capabilities. If you ask them, if these things are aliens, they’ll tell you – “Probably not”

[Learn more about Tardigrades]

Why Do Bad Eggs Float?

By Anupum Pant

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Instead of cracking up an egg which has been stored for a long time, to end up disgusted by the ‘rotten egg smell’, or the smell of a gas called Hydrogen Sulfide, a simple and a fairly well known way to check if an egg has gone bad, is to drop it in a glass of water and see if it floats. I found out about this first, from an article written at Frugal Living, and spent some time to confirm its claims – Bad eggs float.
If you take my word for it (you should!), it really does work. The article describes this three-point test to find out if an egg is good to eat.

  1. If the egg sinks and lies on its side, it is a fresh one. It is good enough to be eaten.
  2. If it sinks and stands up on a point, or is at an angle, it is good enough. You can still use it up for making hard-cooked eggs or bake it.
  3. But, if an egg floats, it needs to be discarded.

Why does this happen?

To understand, you’ll have to think of a chick – a young chicken.

Poor Chicks: Before chickens come out of the egg, they develop lungs and need oxygen to breath. Sitting inside a sealed egg, with no cords attached, for the chick to survive, oxygen has to come in from somewhere. For that, let us look inside.

Egg Science: The outer shell of an egg has two membranes under it. When an egg is laid, it is warm and starts cooling which contracts the inner part of the egg more than the shell and pulls the two membranes apart. As a result, air gets trapped in between the membranes (not enough air initially for it to float).

How does the air come in? The shell of an egg isn’t as simple as it looks. It has about 7000 tiny pores in that shell which let the air pass in and let the carbon dioxide pass out of it. This is how the chick breathes. And the reason, eggs boiled in colored water during Easter, get colored from the inside.

So, as there are pores present in the shell, bacteria enter the egg and start decaying the biological matter inside. This produces a smelly gas (and other gases too), Hydrogen Sulfide (also present in smelly farts). The gases from this decomposition, and the air from outside, keep increasing in volume as time passes.

Corollary: This is exactly what explains these floating bad eggs – Greater the amount of gas inside, older is the egg and the better it floats in water.

Side note: Egg shells and the two membranes inside have the ability to stop the invasion of micro-organisms and bacteria, but over time bacteria manage to enter.