Today’s uncommon creature is an axolotl (Suggested by Rebecca Evans). It also has been called a Mexican salamander or a Mexican walking fish, but whatever you decided to call it, it’s certainly unusual. In the wild, they are normally a greenish brown or black, but back in 1863, a mutant male was shipped to Paris and captive ones were then specifically bred to be whitish pink with black eyes. Though popular as an exotic pet or used frequently as laboratory specimens because they are easy to breed, they can only be found naturally in Xochimilco, Mexico and their populations are declining, making them critically endangered.

What appears to be an odd hairdo or exotic headdress on its head are actually its gills. Axolotl’s exhibit neoteny, which means, like many human adults, as they get older they never really mature. Even after growing lungs, they stay in the water and hold onto their gills, refusing to grow up. But seriously, who would want to give up such a fashionable look! Unlike humans, however, the axolotl can get coaxed into maturity with a shot of iodine. This, I should note, has not been proven to work with 20-somethings still living in mom and dad’s basement.

Though many amphibians can regenerate limbs, the axolotl really takes it up a notch with the ability to regenerate their jaws, spines, and even brains. Slice ’em and dice ’em and each time they’ll regenerate a perfectly formed replacement with absolutely no signs of scarring. This uncommon ability makes them valuable study in labs and scientists are currently trying to learn more about these enviable superpowers to see if they can recreate this phenomenon in humans. Which is both exciting and disturbing all at the same time. If you have a suggestion for a future uncommon creature, don’t forget to let me know in the comments!

About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Cobalt Blue, Pyrrol Red, Ultramarine Blue, Neutral Tint and Titanium White Gouache. Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Opera Rose. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon blue ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal


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59 thoughts on “The Axolotl

  1. There is a well-known axolotl lab at our local university. I hadn’t been there in close to 20 years. I met an illustrator last year who is working on a picture book about them. 🙂 You make this wacky creature awfully cute! <3

  2. Very fascinating information about your strangely adorable subject. How cool to never grow up and be able to regenerate body parts! Now if only something could be done about that bed head!! 😄

  3. Very sweet – he has the most ‘goofy cute’ face I think I’ve ever seen! So goofy in fact that I was sure you were playing tricks on us for a moment there, throwing a fake in to see if anyone would realise 😉 (that’s a pretty fun idea, actually) But no, he’s so goofy that he can only be a product of nature.

      1. Haha, oh my, he is totally a video game boss – even down to the name! “I can’t defeat the stupid Axolotl.” The smile seems rather more sinister now in that context.

  4. Yay, thank Charlie, your doodle wash looks just like the one we had in the lab, just looking at me through the glass…..I never could tell if it was smiling, it always looked the same. My feeling sorry for it, has come flooding back. I wonder what happened to the strange thing? When my daughter went to view the collage for her A levels a few years ago, I dashed to the lab to see if it was still there… tank! Very fascinating creatures. Made my day, even if it was for a peculiar memory( even the lab smells have come flooding back- yuk) 😀

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Rebecca!! 😃💕This was such a weird one! Hehe…and super hard to doodlewash. It’s just sort of flesh and fringe! Lol Awww too bad it wasn’t still there. I think these creatures would be very memorable… definitely worth risking the lab smells to get a peek! 😉

  5. Oh, I just love the look on it’s face. It’s too too precious! I saw one of these in a Mexican “ocean” zoo on one of the islands… It’s been over 20 yrs and I don’t remember the location exactly. But, they are beautiful little creatures. So sad they’re fading… us humans are probably to blame for that.

    1. Hehe… it’s a weird one isn’t it? Always seems to have a bit of a smile though. Cool that you saw one! I haven’t seen one of these in person yet. Yeah, the dark colored ones are dwindling in the wild, but I think these guys are at least continuing on as squishy lab rats… not sure that’s a better thing though!

  6. This is truly unusual. I’ve never heard of these amazing creatures! I wonder if I can give my son a shot of iodine for some maturity! Haha.. My family has been plagued with the flu. I’m home today because I feel crappy.. I’m going back to read your other posts!! ❤️

  7. Ah, the axolotl! Such a curious beast. It’s got gills and lungs, and always stays young, and regrows when it should be deceased! Such a crazy crittur just calls for a limerick-like ode.

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