If you have been by the South Branch Library lately you might have seen our new friend, the axolotl. Currently our axolotl does not have a name but anyone may suggest their favorite names and the top picks will be voted on later this month.
You may be asking yourself, what is an axolotl? Well this cute little amphibian is a member of the salamander family and is sometimes called a Mexican Walking Fish. Axolotl can be a bit tricky to say, so phonetically it is pronounced ax-oh-lot-ul and it gets its name from the word alt which means water and xlotl which is the name of an Aztec canine deity. The axolotl is native to Mexico and is classified as critically endangered in the wild. There are more of them kept in zoos and as pets than in the wild. In the wild they are normally either greenish brown or black in color, but many bets also come in Leucistic, which is a whitish Pink. There are also albino axolotls, but the Leucistic have dark colored eyes unlike the bright red eyes of an albino. The library’s axolotl was bred for captivity.
Even if the word axolotl doesn’t sound familiar you might have seen a fictional character that is based on the cool critter and not even know it! In How to Train Your Dragon both the Night Fury and Light Fury dragons have design elements that are influenced by axolotyls. Also, the very popular video game series Animal crossing has a character named Dr. Shrunk who is an axolotl. Speaking of games, there is a Playstation 4 named Axol that is entirely based on the axolotl. If you are a Pokemon fan you might notice that Mudkips and Woopers look a whole lot like axolotls tool.
Axolotls are more than just adorable - they are truly unique in several ways. One of these is that they do not go through a metamorphosis like most amphibians. Though they do have lungs, they never lose the ability to use their gills and in fact the fun little tentacles with grills around their heads are their gills. Because of this they prefer to live underwater though they can breathe above water if they need to. Another crazy cool fact about them is that they have an unbeatable ability to regenerate. In just a few weeks they can fully regrow any missing limb. They can even regrow organs such as their brain and heart. Because of this, many scientists have studied a nifty protein called c-Fos that gives them this special ability.
The library’s axolotl actually had to regrow three of its legs when it was a baby! He is an adult now and will continue to live at the South Branch library until the Mockingbird Branch reopens and then he will move to his permanent home. The library’s new friend was donated by Felicia Jones, a local kindergarten teacher. You can finda video on her on the library’s website as she tells everyone a little about the axolotl. So be sure to drop by and say hello to the library’s newest and cutest pet!
Article Contributed by Marianne Vadney, Librarian I at Mockingbird Branch Library