While Wolverine is pop-culture's go-to mutant when it comes to regeneration, a weird little Mexican animal known as axolotl is giving the Marvel superhero a run for its money.
Alao known as the "Mexican Walking Fish", the critically endangered amphibians are restricted almost entirely to Mexico’s Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco. And now, an axolotl named Frankie that lives in Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City has exhibited clearly its skill to regenerate lost body parts.
Frankie had lost half its face due to a fungal infection, the BBC reported. However, Frankie's caretaker and axolotl researcher Erika Servín Zamora noted that the creature grew back most of its face, including a working eye, within just two months.
Axolotls, which are anywhere from 15 to 45 cm long (most adult axolotls, however, only grow to a length of 20 cm) have grown as a symbol of Mexico. Despite its funny appearance and humble size, the creatures have proven to be of great interest to scientists, thanks to their regeneration abilities. According to Zamora, who is also a veterinarian, studying the regenerative properties of axolotls may help scientists apply the same knowledge to treat human injuries such as amputated limbs. It could also help in treating damaged liver or other organs.
However, rapid urbanisation and subsequent water pollution as well as growth of invasive fish species such as the tilapia have gravely endangered the wondrous creature's numbers. Incidentally, the demand for keeping axolotls as pets has also grown with many finding its "always smiling" face adorable.