A bizarre type of salamander which never grows up and is thought to be the inspiration for the character ‘Toothless’ in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ has gone on display at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium.
The tiny axolotl salamander was recently classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ in their native Mexico where they are only found in the ancient water systems around Mexico City.
The Towan Promenade attraction is looking after a breeding pair of black axolotls and keepers are confident it won’t be too long before they start producing their own young.
The bizarre creatures, known as the Peter Pans of the aquatic world, are also thought by some people to be part of the inspiration for the character of ‘Toothless’ a rare ‘Night Fury’ dragon in the hugely-popular ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ films.
“Axolotls are actually the larval form of the Mexican salamander. Just like other salamanders they start life as an egg which then develops into a tadpole with external gills and eventually legs,” said Blue Reef’s Steve Matchett.
“However unlike other amphibians which go on to develop lungs and move out of the water onto the land, for some reason the axolotl chooses to remain in its juvenile form.”
“It can live out the rest of its life in the water, growing to maturity and breeding while still in this juvenile phase,” he added.
In addition to never growing up, axolotls have other amazing attributes which have fascinated both ancient civilisations and the modern medical world.
As well as having the ability to re-grow lost limbs and tails they can also re-generate dead or damaged brain and heart cells.
The name axolotl literally means water dog and it’s believed they were created when the Aztec god Xolotl, fearing he was to be sacrificed, plunged into the water and was transformed into the bizarre creature.
The Aztecs not only used the axolotl as a source of food and medicine but also utilised them in their ceremonies and, it is thought, even traded with them for building materials to create Mexico City.
Today native populations are severely threatened by pollution, farming and development.
Issued by Blue Reef Aquarium. For more information and to arrange interviews/picture opportunities please call Lucy Hackett or Steve Matchett on 01637 878134.