I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say:
Axolotls are amazing creatures!
And you’ll probably agree even more when you see from these facts how fascinating they are.
Have fun 🙂
1. They stay in their juvenile state their entire life
Axolotls never morph into the final adult form of a salamander.
Technically, they don’t stay babies, as they age and reach reproductive status.
But they remain fully aquatic!
Learn more about how axolotls grow up.
2. They can morph
In rare cases, axolotls can morph.
This means they lose their frilly gills and leave the water to go on land.
Exposure to iodine can trigger morphing.
3. Their genome is 10X that of a person’s genome
Axolotls have 32 billion DNA databases.
Sequencing and isolating genes in this animal is a fascinating task for scientists.
It was discovered they have 5 genes that aren’t present in any other amphibians – or reptiles and people (source).
Some of those genes are responsible for limb regeneration.
4. Axolotl cells can merge together in development
This leads to the creation of what are known as chimeras, mosaics and split mosaics.
It’s an accident that happens in development.
An argument exists that chimarism in axolotls does not exist – that they are all just mosaics of different appearances.
These animals can be delicate and difficult to breed due to infertility problems.
5. Axolotls can regrow almost any part of their body
- Hands & feet
- Entire limbs
- A third of their heart
- Parts of their brain
- Spinal cord
- Reproductive organs
Amazing fact, isn’t it?
6. Females can lay over 1,000 eggs
An adult female axolotl can lay more than 1K eggs.
Needless to say when an axolotl breeds, the owner usually is looking at finding some who are willing to take in all the extra eggs!
7. Axies are extinct in the wild
Due to pollution and out-competing by species that are not native being introduced…
The wild population of axolotls has diminished into oblivion.
As far as we know, no more wild ambystoma mexicanum remain.
There are more than 17 species of axolotl, and there are some that still remain in the wild, just not this particular one.
Many of them are also threatened as well.
8. Domestic axies are nothing like what they originally were
They have been heavily modified through selective breeding and hybridization.
So unfortunately, reintroducing what we have now in the wild to reestablish the population would probably not be feasible.
9. There are over 10 different morphs
Axolotls come in an amazing variety of patterns and tones.
Some of these are:
- White albino
- Black mel
- Silver dalmatian
There are also many combinations of the above.
10. Albino axolotls come from tiger salamander hybrids
In 1962, albino tiger salamanders were mated with axolotls, creating the first albino axies.
Some believe these varieties may be more prone to morph.
11. Babies can be cannibalistic
Axolotls under 6″ have a tendency to bite one another, especially if not heavily fed.
They will snap at gills, toes and even take off whole limbs of their siblings – especially if they get hungry.
One cannibalistic baby can damage 100’s of siblings!
Spacing them out quite a bit or individually separating the young helps prevent them from turning cannibal.
Once they get a taste of blood… they will learn to bite forever.
12. GFP axies have jellyfish DNA
GFP stands for “green fluorescent protein.”
The glow in the dark genes that GFP axolotls have actually come from scientists in laboratories mixing jellyfish DNA into the embryos.
Hence, it is a GMO organism.
When a GFP lotl breeds with a non-GFP one, the babies will be 50% GFP and 50% non-GFP.
The glow effect is seen under UV light.
Parts of a GFP axolotl salamander can be grafted into another non-GFP axolotl (source).
Apparently, it is impossible for the babies of non-GFP parents to pass this on to their young.
13. Firefly axolotls are man-made
Delicate microsurgery techniques are required to make a Firefly axolotl – where parts of two axolotls are switched.
This procedure has been done on embryos.
Even entire axolotl heads have been swapped with each other surgically!
14. The axolotl is a popular lab animal
The majority of the axolotl population lives in labs.
It is studied for limb regeneration via stem cells, DNA, transplanting and genetics.
Large colonies of axolotls have been established to supply the labs with animals for research and educational purposes.
15. They take 6-18 months to reach sexual maturity
If you want to create a new generation of axolotls from eggs…
… You’re going to need patience!
It can take quite a while before they are old enough to breed.
16. Breeding males & females should be unrelated
Pairing siblings narrows the genetic pool.
When buying babies, it’s often a good idea to check with the breeder to make sure the parents are not related.
17. They have incredible external gills
Axies fluff their floofs to swirl the water around to make the best use of oxygen.
The length of these gills depends on a variety of factors, including water quality, diet and genetics.
Pretty cleaver, right?
Click here to learn more about lotl gills.
18. Some axolotls have face fluorescence
(Without being considered a complete GFP.)
This genetic characteristic causes a lotl’s face to glow in certain areas under UV light.
The gene that causes this is GFP – not an injected dye.
19. Mosaics remain a mystery
The definition of a mosaic remains elusive.
Animals can show very obvious or very subtle signs of mosaicism.
Some are not even visible to the naked eye – it can be hidden in their DNA.
20. Axolotls are not a fish
That’s right – they aren’t, despite having gills and a tail.
They’re an amphibian!
So they are closer to being frogs than fish.
21. They don’t see that well
These guys don’t have the best vision.
They are known for balancing pellets on their head (obliviously).
Sometimes you have to wiggle the food on their face for them to realize it’s there.
But don’t fault them:
That’s how they have always been.
Some cave-dwelling salamanders (like the very strange creature, the olm) have no eyes altogether.
22. Axolotls are illegal in some US states
For various reasons, 5 states in the US don’t allow axolotls.
These include California, New Jersey, Virginia, Maine and DC.
Some states require a permit, including Hawaii and New Mexico.
The main two objections are them being an endangered species and fears of them out-competing native wildlife if released from captivity by irresponsible pet owners.
23. They can breathe through their skin
Axolotls actually absorb oxygen through their skin, not just their gills.
And while speaking of breathing, as if this ability isn’t enough…
24. They have a small pair of lungs
Axolotls come up to the surface to take a breath of air approximately every 20 minutes.
This is why shallower tanks are recommended over taller ones for them.
25. You can train them to eat from a dish (or tongs)
These guys can actually learn how to eat from a bowl like a dog!
This helps eliminate mess in the aquarium from food going everywhere.
Some people use special feeding devices made of glass that shoot the food into a dish.
Others use tongs, which the axolotls learn to recognize the sight (and sound) of.
26. They can learn to recognize their owners
Hey, you, hooman, got me worm?
That’s right, axolotls can start identifying who feeds them.
They may even go over to the side of the tank you’re on to beg.
How can you resist?
27. They can grow to be 12″+ in length
These guys may start out small, but they can grow to reach an impressive final size.
Some beast axolotls have been known to reach 15″ in length due to being heavily fed live animals.
(Not all axies get that big though. Some only get to be 6-8″ long and stay there.)
28. Axolotls can live to be 15 years old
This is a pet that can see your kid through college.
Far from being a disposable pet, the axolotl has amazing longevity for a salamander species.
This may have to do in part with remaining neotonic their entire lives.
29. They can grow rapidly
For the first 8 months, axolotls can grow an inch per month.
Their growth starts to slow down at around the 8-10 month mark.
30. Axolotls need it cold
Getting too warm results in axolotls becoming sick – or even dying.
They originate from a cold water lake in Mexico, fed by glacial waters.
So if you live where it’s warm, you’ll probably need a way to keep the water from overheating.
31. They can live in ponds
Some people actually keep their animals outdoors in ponds.
Provided the winter isn’t too long or too harsh, they can make a great pond animal.
Just beware of predators! 🙂
32. They have teeth, but they don’t chew with them
Axolotls have fine teeth on the upper and lower jaws.
But they are hardly noticeable and underdeveloped (more like bony ridges), and just use them to grip their prey.
They consume their food via suction and cram it down their throats whole.
33. They are pretty much cancer resistant
This one may blow your mind.
Axolotls have a cancer-suppressing gene that makes them 1,000x more resistant to cancer than mammals.
That means they basically never get cancer.
There are many more incredible facts about axolotls here than what I’m able to put down.
But I hope you enjoyed learning more about this amazing animal.
Scientists still don’t know all there is to know about their massive genome, or how they regenerate limbs.
But either way, they make for educational and captivating pets.
Thanks for reading!
About the Author: Meredith Clawson
Axolotl breeder, owner, egg raiser and enthusaist, Fantaxies founder Meredith has over 10 years of experience in the aquarium industry and is passionate about helping other lotl parents to enjoy this amazing species through the Fantaxies website.