Happy World Wildlife Day 2018!!
As some of you may or may not know, the 3rd March 2018 is the UN declared World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. As everyone who knows me will definitely know, this is my bread and butter. No surprises then that I am going to write a post about it!
I have decided to talk about an animal that I find absolutely fascinating and one that has truly captured my heart over the years.
I have had 4 axolotls – Aristole (male), Maruki (female), Velvet (female) and Toothless (female). This is my late axolotl Aristotle, who I had as a pet for over 10 years;
So some quick fire facts;
- Axolotls are neotenic salamanders that live under water. However, they aren’t fish, instead they are amphibians.
- The species originates from lakes, most from Mexico.
- A sexually mature axolotl (18-24 months old) can reach up to 18 inches.
- They have external gills (kind of looks like hair) that moves oxygenated water and a caudal fin that reaches from the head to the tail.
- Their heads are wide with lidless eyes – so they’re very sensitive to light.
- They have barely visible vestigial teeth – but don’t worry, their primary way to feed is by suction (so it doesn’t hurt when they accidentally suck in your finger during feeding, just feels rather odd!).
- They belong to the Ambystomatidae family and Ambystoma genus.
- Their scientific name is Abystoma mexicanum.
- They are insanely cool in that they reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis, which would result in developing lungs and beginning to live on land as a salamander, they instead remain aquatic and gilled. If you did however, take an axolotl out of water, they would develop into a salamander, where they would only live for approximately 6 months, instead of the decades that an axolotl can live for.
- Axolotls have 4 pigmentation genes so can create 4 different colours; leucistic (pale pink with black eyes like Aristotl), albino (golden with gold eyes like Maruki), axanthic (grey with black eyes) and melanoid (all black like Toothless). They can also sometimes alter their colour to camouflage themselves against their environment.
Axolotls are frequently used in science because of their healing ability. They do not scar and are able to regenerate limbs, including vital parts of their brain. They can also accept transplants from other individuals for improved functionality. There is some research currently going into seeing if the genes of the axolotl can be replicated in a human so that we can regenerate our own limbs too… crazy stuff!
Research into these genes has meant that the axolotls genome was published in 2018 and is to date the largest animal genome to be completed at….. drum roll please… 32 billion base pairs long (which is 10 times larger than the human genome). Was that a gasp I heard at the back of the room?! Yep! You read that right!
As I mentioned, axolotls are native to Mexico, and their population has been put under HUGE strain because of the growth of Mexico City. This has meant that it is now unfortunately a threatened species. Something that we really need to start doing something about!
Axolotls are absolutely amazing creatures. They are currently registered as being critically endangered, which is very worrying as they really hold benefits in the world of science, not to mention them making excellent pets for anyone who is allergic to animal hair. They are really attentive creatures and really interact with you.
I hope I’ve managed to tell you some new and hopefully interesting facts about the axolotl. They are honestly so so cool and if you can get one and house it properly, I would definitely recommend it. They are truly brilliant.
I hope you all have an amazing World Wildlife Day and I would of course love to hear about any animals that you have or are particularly passionate about. Wildlife is so important and it is our job to take care of it and raise awareness about it!
Until next time,