Our Very Own Gremlin: The Axolotl
Cute, but even that hasn't saved the Axolotl
Is that ET or a Gremlin?
Friends who urge me to write more on the wierd and less known creatures which share our starship, Earth, have encouraged me to visit Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco, found in Central Mexico. (You did, all five of you).
Here lives a strange creature - actually one of the Salamander family - named the Axolotl, although unlike most salamanders it does not use metamorphosis approaching adulthood into taking on the ability to air-breath. Those familiar with Mexican legends will realize that Xolotl, a top Aztec god, fearing that his followers were 'taking heart,' ahem, and planning to sacrifice him, threw himself into one of the lakes, transmogrifying himself into the enigmatic mite we see today.
The Axolotl, (the name is from the Nahuatl language)l is blessed with some formidible physical assets. Not only can it regenerate limbs lost in predation, such as its legs and tail, it amazes scientists with its ability to regenerate heart and brain cells as well.
Although only remotely fish-like, locals sometimes know the Axolotl as the Mexican Walking Fish.
Unfortunately, the Axolotl is still threatened as in ancient times by quackery that allows it to be captured, dried and ground down into patent medicines for one lunacy or another. So are so many of the world's irreplaceable creatures being driven into extinction today. Sadly, in the wild, one of its lakes, Chalco, has been drained and a search in Xochimilco late last year could not find one individual over a three-month period, perhaps due to the introduction and proliferation of several non-native stock, like the voracious Asian Carp. CITES still has it listed as critically endagered (IUCN also), they may be a mite late in its true state of extinct in the wild.
Due to its extraordinary abilities, it is also used in legitimate scientific research and bred extensively in captivity to this end. Many are kept as pets (not to be confused with the N. American "Mud Puppies," a seperate species with some similarities).
Along with human stupidity, the creature has its habitat threatened by shrinking lake water used to supply Mexico City, etc., and increased pollution.
The only fact in its favor today is the corpse is not used as currency as it was in Aztec times. The gremlin look-alike might be thankful for small mercies in a country that regards most animal rights as a nonsense (turtles, whales and butterflies excepted). When half the population is out of work and hungry; all available water sources are seized by the 25 million strong capital, the well being of a small lake dweller comes last on the list.
Plans have been mentioned to reintroduce the Axolotl into other fresh water bodies from captive stock. Some little hope for the species...