Axolotls are large salamanders that come from the remnants of lakes Xochimilco and Chalco in Mexico City, Mexico. Axolotls live their entire lives in water, never emerging onto land. Axolotl care requirements are minimal, and provided temperature and water flow are well controlled, they are hardy, easy-to-care-for captives that breed readily in captivity. It is difficult to think of a more unusual display animal than the axolotl, and its bold and tame nature makes it an interactive pet
Despite its endangered status, the use of the Axolotl as a laboratory animal should ensure the species’ survival, if only in captivity. It has long been known that the Axolotl is a worthy study due to its amazing healing and regeneration abilities. Normal wound healing in animals occurs through the growth of scar tissue, which is not the same as the original tissue, nor is it as robust. Normal wound healing also does not allow for most animals to re-grow a lost limb. However the axolotl is fully capable of complete limb re-growth. The animal has the added scientific attraction of having especially large embryos, making it easier to deal with under laboratory conditions. Its embryo is also very robust, and can be spliced and combined with different parts of other axolotl embryos with a high degree of success.
The Axolotl is a fascinating creature for a number of reasons, including its grotesque appearance, its ability to regenerate, and primarily the fact that it exhibits the phenomenon known as neoteny. Ordinarily, amphibians undergo metamorphosis from egg to larva (the tadpole of a frog is a larva), and finally to adult form. The Axolotl, along with a number of other amphibians, remains in its larval form throughout its life. This means that it retains its gills and fins, and it doesn’t develop the protruding eyes, eyelids and characteristics of other adult salamanders. It grows much larger than a normal larval salamander, and it reaches sexual maturity in this larval stage. Another term to describe this state is “perennibranchiate”. The animal is completely aquatic, and although it does possess rudimentary lungs, it breathes primarily through its gills and to a lesser extent, its skin.