Jess has been obsessed with axolotls since childhood and has been caring for her own for years.
Axolotls are as interesting as they are adorable! They are amphibians that spend their whole lives underwater. They are neotenous salamanders, which means that they spend their whole lives with their juvenile features, and most never go through metamorphosis, even though they can live up to 15 years! They also are only native to one lake in Mexico. If this has sparked your curiosity, keep reading below for six interesting facts about axolotls.
1. They Can Regenerate Body Parts
One of the most unique axolotl traits is their ability to regenerate body parts. If they lose one of their limbs, they can grow back the whole thing exactly how it looked before, and this usually only takes them about 40-50 days. It's not just limbs they can grow back, they can also grow back their spinal cords, the front portion of their brain, their testes, and even part of their hearts.
Their regenerative capabilities are something that scientists have been studying with hopes that they can use the information for humans. This article from Harvard explains what they are learning from axolotls and how it could be helpful to humans in the future.
2. Axolotls Are Cannibals
Axolotls will eat anything that they can fit in their mouths, and that includes other axolotls. Juvenile axolotls are especially prone to doing this, if you keep a lot of them together there is a good chance that several of them will be missing limbs.
This is why if you keep axolotls in the same tank it is important to make sure that one is not significantly bigger than the other; both are past their baby stage; both are well fed. Since they will try to eat anything they can, it is recommended to not keep them with any rocks that they could swallow or tank mates of different species.
3. They Are Almost Extinct in the Wild
This fact isn't very fun, but unfortunately, it is true. They are considered a critically endangered species and there are less than 1000 left in the wild. They are only found in the Xochimilco region of Mexico. Problems with water quality and larger fish being introduced to their habitat have led to their population decline.
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Even though they are critically endangered in the wild, there are a huge amount of axolotls being sold as pets. These axolotls are being bred in captivity and they are becoming pretty popular.
4. Those Long "Floofs" Attached to Their Heads Are Gills, But They have Lungs Too
Axolotls gills are very unique looking. They branch out of the top of their heads and they almost look like hair or feathers. Although they can use their gills to breathe underwater, they have lungs too. They can use their lungs to breathe air from the surface of the water. It isn't uncommon to see your axolotl swim up to the top of the tank to grab a gulp of water before swimming back down. Sometimes this is a sign that the oxygen level in the tank is low, but this isn't always the case.
5. Axolotls Have Teeth
If you have seen the inside of an axolotls mouth you may think I am lying, but inside their gummy mouths, they do have teeth. Their teeth are located in their upper and lower jaws and they are just for gripping their food. They don't use their teeth for chewing at all, and they definitely aren't using them as any sort of defense.
Don't let this scare you away from hand feeding your axolotls. It is pretty rare for an axolotl bite to leave a mark and their teeth are not sharp enough to hurt you. If your axolotls are anything like mine, they will probably need the help—they aren't very good at catching their food.
6. Axolotls Lay a Huge Number of Eggs at a Time
You definitely shouldn't breed your axolotls unless you are prepared to take care of a lot of babies! It is not recommended to house males and females in the same tank permanently because they breed very easily, and females can lay up to 1000 eggs at a time. Usually, they only lay a few hundred eggs, but 1000 is completely possible. Laying this many eggs can be stressful for the female, so it is important not to breed them while the female is young and to not let them breed too many times.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jess H