The Axolotl

At the homegrown professor, many fascinating creatures get the spotlight. Indeed, it may be impossible to pick the most interesting one. But here we'll introduce one that is an unusual animal, is surprisingly popular, and comes from a small corner of the world.

Introducing, the Axolotl.

Time to don your pith helmet and travel to the jungles of Mexico to go exploring.

What's an Axolotl?

An Axolotl (pronounced ash-show-lote or Axe-o-lot-l) is a type of salamander, although it is called a "walking fish." (even though it isn't a fish) This salamander grows up to between 6 and 18 inches long and is known for its never-ending smile and has what looks like three antlers sticking out of each side of its head. These are, in fact, the gills it uses to breathe with.

Ironically, it gets its name from a most unpleasant character in Aztec mythology, Xolotl. Xolotl was the god of all things bad or unfortunate; sickness, deformities, misfortunes and dogs (Aztecs did not look favorably on dogs). He also escorted the dead to the underworld and was considered a pest to the other gods and, at one point, had to escape by turning itself into an Axolotl.

These cute critters have had the name ever since.

There's no place like home

The Axolotl is native to only a couple of lakes in south-central Mexico – Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco.

Sunrise over Xochimilco by Juan Manuel Gomez.*

Here it lives a quiet life skimming the lake bottom for its food; insects, worms, and small fish. Its teeth are good for catching their meals, but not chewing – they swallow their food whole.

Can we keep it?

The Axolotl is a strange creature from a small part of the world, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming fairly popular as a pet. Pet owners describe it as very cute, especially when some of the motions it makes with its mouth look like it's laughing.

One of the links below is to a site explaining how to take care of one as a pet. Who knows, perhaps it is something your family might consider having as a pet.

Perhaps our interest in such unique creatures helps prove that we, as people, are interested in the different from the ordinary. But we also can find beauty in many different sources, in many different ways.

And that's a good thing.

On the web

Facts: The Axolotl

This video gives a brief overview of the Axolotl.

Axolotl Care 101: Tank Setup, Food, Lifespan & More!

As promised, this page goes over how to prep for your own Axolotl. It includes how to take care of it and more.

*Shared through creative commons license 4.0.

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