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God’s Awesome Axolotl

From Issue: Volume 35 #7 – July

Let me introduce you to one of the most interesting and fascinating creatures that God designed. It is called the axolotl (AK-suh-lah-tul). 

If you have never seen one, you might want to “ax a lottle” questions about it. First, the axolotl is an amphibian salamander that lives in Lake Xochimilco (SOW-chee-mill-koh) near Mexico City. This one lake and the water ways connected to it provide the only remaining wild habitat for the axolotl in the whole world. Because of this, wild axolotls are extremely rare, with fewer than 1,000 left alive, and are on the critically endangered list. 

The axolotl can grow to be about 18 inches long and weigh about 8 ounces. When you look at an axolotl, you see “leafy” things sprouting out of the sides of its head. Those leafy structures are external gills. Unlike most amphibians and salamanders, axolotls keep their gills for their entire life. Amphibians begin in a juvenile state, such as when a frog is a tadpole. As most amphibians mature, they lose their gills and move to live on land and breathe air. The axolotl, however, is “neotenic,” which means it keeps its juvenile structures and does not grow out of them. So, even though an axolotl is an amphibian, it spends most of its life in the water and uses its gills to take oxygen out of the water, similar to how fish use their gills. Because it stays in water and has gills, it is sometimes referred to as the “Mexican walking fish.” However, axolotls also have lungs, which allow them to go to the surface of the water and gulp air. And they can also breathe through their skin.

At the beginning of this article, we stated that there are only about 50-1,000 wild axolotls. There are, however, hundreds of thousands of axolotls left in the world. That is because many people keep them as pets (and scientists use them for research). In captivity, an axolotl can live between 10-15 years. They are carnivores that eat worms, insects, snails, fish, and other small creatures. Axolotls have the ability to change the color of their skin to camouflage themselves better so they can sneak up on their food more successfully. When they find something they want to eat, they do not really “chew” their food. Instead, they form a vacuum suction with their mouths and “suck” up food from the bottom of the lakebed (or aquarium). In the process, they often suck up small bits of gravel. Instead of spitting these little rocks out, they use them to help grind their food, like birds that have a gizzard. In the past, the Aztec Indians in Mexico often interacted with axolotls. They drew pictures of them, wrote about them, and often ate them. Aztecs considered them to be a delicious delicacy. Even today, you can visit the Yokohama restaurant in Japan and order a fried axolotl!

The primary feature that makes the axolotl so amazing is that it has the ability to regenerate (or regrow) just about every part of its body. If a person has a bad accident and cuts his finger off, his body immediately begins to heal the area by producing scar tissue and sealing over the wound. Axolotls do not produce scar tissue when they are injured. Instead, they have the ability to regenerate all the cells in most all of their organs, so that they can simply regrow an entire finger back. In fact, a finger is no problem at all for them to regrow. They can regenerate an entire limb (arm or leg)! 

This ability to regenerate their bodies makes them extremely valuable to the medical world for research. Scientists are trying to figure out how axolotls regenerate so well. These scientists believe that we may be able to use knowledge about axolotl regeneration to help humans heal better. As we continue to study the axolotl, we have found that it can regrow parts of its brain, parts of its eyes, its lungs, its heart, its jaw, and even its spine. Not only that, but if an eye from one axolotl is transplanted into another axolotl, the new host accepts the eye and is able to use it just like its own eye. Several other organs and body structures can be transplanted as well, and the body of the host does not reject the new structures.

The ability to easily accept transplanted structures is something doctors have been studying in humans for many years. One of the major problems that humans have with transplanted organs such as hearts or lungs is that the body of the person who receives the organ tries to reject it. Most people who receive an organ have to take powerful medicine for the rest of their lives to keep their bodies from destroying the transplanted organ. If doctors could discover how the axolotl is able to easily receive transplants, that information could be used to help organ transplants in humans go smoother and be more effective. Also, think about this, brilliant doctors and scientists have tried for years to figure out how to effectively transplant organs, but axolotls have had that “technology” their whole lives. Only an all-knowing Creator has the power to design a creature such as the axolotl that can regenerate many of its organs and accept transplanted organs with ease.

Axolotls have another remarkable feature that defies evolution. Every living organism in the world has a unique DNA structure that has numerous pairs of chemicals that stick together. These pairs are called “base pairs” and they form the ladder-like structure of DNA. Humans have about three billion base pairs in their DNA. That is a really large number. Axolotls, however, have about 32 billion base pairs that make up their DNA. That is more than 10 times the amount that humans have. Humans are supposed to be the most “highly evolved” animals on the planet, yet the axolotl, a little salamander, has a DNA strand that contains many more “letters” than humans. Evolution cannot explain why an axolotl has so much information in its DNA. The reason evolution cannot explain this is because evolution did not happen. God created each kind of creature with its own unique abilities and designs. Humans did not evolve from “simple” organisms over millions of years, and neither did axolotls. God created the amazing axolotl that can breathe through its skin, regrow its own organs, change its color to camouflage itself, accept transplanted organs, and vacuum up its food.  On Day Five of Creation, the Bible states: “Then God said: ‘Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures….’” God’s unrivaled creative ability is on grand display when we study the axolotl.


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