Axolotl questions

The A-to-Z Blogging Challenge started on the 1st of April. A Wednesday. It was not convenient for me. I saw the first few days of the month pass me by and decided I would catch up in the weekend.

By Saturday, April 4th, I saw I could no longer sign up, at least not officially. And then it dawned on me… It did not need to be April. Posting one blog a day following an alphabetical chronology can also be done in May! Besides, May starts on a Friday; much more convenient…

So, today I start my own A-to-Z challenge.

I dedicate my first blog, the letter A, to the Axolotl. I realized it must be so when I saw this T-shirt being recommended to me on social media. And I desired it deeply. I still do.

I axolotl questions and you should too.

Have you ever seen an axolotl? They are fascinatingly odd.

And if you think they look odd, then wait until you learn more about their physiology.

Axolotl Lifecycles

Axolotls are actually salamanders. Salamanders hatch from eggs. They then grow into limbless larva, looking very similar to tadpoles. Then they start growing limbs; first the front legs appear, then the back ones. Up to that moment all salamanders are fully aquatic and therefore have cute frilled gills adorning their faces.

Your regular salamanders then proceed to grow into boring adults. They develop lungs for breathing above water and lose the frills. When they’re ready, they just walk out of the water and never look back.

Axolotls are rebels though. They hang on to puberty, stay in the water, singing Under the Sea all day, I assume. They successfully reproduce without ever morphing into the adult stage.

And it’s not that they have lost the ability to do so. Noooo sir. If the water they live in no longer suits them or if it dries up for some reason, they do what they have to do.

It must be said, they look really gross as adults. Because I wan’t you to keep the cute image you have of them and also don’t want to embarrass them, I’m not going to include a picture of an adult-stage axolotl here.

Axolotl regeneration

Axolotls don’t only stay young because of their youthful souls. They possess the freakish ability to grow back limbs and tails. But that’s not all; they can regrow whole organs, including their BRAIN!

That is why every scientist has an aquarium these days with a couple axolotls in it. They hold the secret to immortality! OK, maybe not immortality but they could definitely teach us more about healing processes.

An article on Big Think website explains it as follows:

We’ve understood the basic process of regeneration in axolotls for a while now. After a limb is severed, for instance, blood cells clot at the site, and skin cells start to divide and cover the exposed wound. Then, nearby cells begin to travel to the site and congregate in a blob called the blastema. The blastema then begins to differentiate into the cells needed to grow the relevant body part and grow outward according to the appropriate limb structure, resulting in a new limb identical to its severed predecessor.

(…)

Since humans possess the same genes that enable axolotls to regenerate, researchers are optimistic that one day we will be able to speed up wound healing or even to completely replicate the axolotl’s incredible ability to regenerate organs and limbs. With continued research such as this, it’s only a matter of time until this strange salamander gives ups its secrets.

Body swapping

All of this may have you wishing for an axolotl aquarium of your own, but don’t let their cute faces and quirky features fool you; these guys are dangerous!

Luckily, I learned about the fatality of axolotls in my early twenties and can therefore still walk the earth on two legs.

If you ever run into an axolotl; just don’t look it in the eyes…

You can read Julio Cortazar’s story here or listen to a lovely lady read it aloud in the video below.

The short TLDR-version of the story:

A man living in Paris becomes fascinated by an axolotl, a creature that he observes in the aquarium of a botanical garden. He visits the exhibit every day and feels a growing bond between himself and the creature. One day, as the man is pressing his face against the glass, looking into the eyes of the axolotl, a bodyswitch occurs. Stuck in the body of the axolotl, he sees his own face looking back at him from outside the aquarium. The aquarium is now his home… until some foolish visitor walks by and decides to look him deep in the eyes…

Based on a true story.

Natalia Lafourcade

This is Blog 14 in my A-Z Blogseries:
Natalia Lafourcade

Spanish is my third language but it is definitely the most beautiful of the three (and it makes me wish it was my first).

Natalia Lafourcade writes and interprets songs that make me fall in love with the language all over again. The songs are poetic and clever, reintroducing traditional rhythms and instruments into modern day music.

In 2017 she released one of my favorite albums ever; “MUSAS”.

Hearing the songs and seeing the accompanying videos, makes me feel like I was there. Musas is more than just an album. Musas is a cultural project, a movement, a statement.

Someone said it quite well on social media: “We had a tremendous outstanding debt to traditional Latin American music that was expunged when the album Musas was made. ¡Gracias Natalia!”

On the album Natalia reinterprets well-known folkloric songs and introduces new ones, that will undoubtedly become classics as well. The tiny desk concert she did in 2017 gives us a small taste:

Anybody who’s learning Spanish should listen to her music as a mandatory language lesson. Her pronunciation is precise and clear. Also, the fact that her songs are relatively slow make it all easier to follow (and let’s face it, that can be a challenge with spoken Spanish).

The video below is a bonus video for Hispanohablantes that want to immerse themselves in Natalia’s folkloric universe for a bit longer or for Spanish students that are ready for a challenge (there are no subtitles).

She’s a delight, isn’t she? I’m such a huge fan!