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.
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.