Hey everybody it’s time for another round of Weird Biology with me, Bunjy! And today, I’m going to introduce you to a friend.
(A very special friend.)
The Axolotl is a medium-sized salamander native to lake Xochimilco and lake Chalco in Mexico. They are sometimes also called Walking Fish by boring people with no imaginations. (If you do actually call Axolotls Walking Fish- haha! that was a funny joke! please do not be mad.) Reaching lengths of 12 entire inches, Axolotls are completely aquatic and spend their days looking for small wiggly things to snap up with their giant weird maws. They are friend-shaped, and inspired the famous pokemon Mudkip.
The most interesting fact about Axolotls though, is that they’re all giant babies. (Literally.) Axolotls have something called neoteny, which is when an adult animal hangs on to one or more features usually only found in the juveniles of the species. Like, imagine if your baby teeth never fell out and you kept them your whole life. Like that. It’s weird. (Weird for you, not weird for the Axolotl. The Axolotl is fine with it.) For Axolotls, this means that they hang onto their gills and strong swimmy tails (usually only found in salamander larvae), and they stay that way forever and never grow up.
Basically, they’re a bunch of tiny adorable amphibian Peter Pans.
Axolotls do actually have a secret unlockable adult form, but never reach it in the wild. In the laboratory, though, they have been induced to reach their ultimate state by injecting them with iodine, which they convert into a growth hormone. And they turned into… wait for it, a salamander.
BEHOLD, MY FINAL FORM! ARE YOU PREPARED, SAIYAN?
Alright, so it’s a little underwhelming. Science still thinks that’s cool as heck. In fact, because of their development traits and ability to regrow lost limbs, Science has tapped Axolotls to be a Model Species. (Which sounds neat, but really means that Axolotls get to be studied in labs alongside the mice.) Science shenanigans aside, Axolotls are extremely common as pets. This is because they do well in captivity and are optimally friend-shaped.
This is a very good thing, because the Axolotl is pretty much extinct in the wild. The lakes where it once lived have been drained and mostly made into canals, and the surviving populations live in captivity. Which, okay, is less than optimal. But scientists and farmers in Mexico City are working to reintroduce their beloved Axolotl, and we hope this weird little walking fish will continue to writhe pinkly in the lakes of the future.