The axolotl isn't just a frilly salamander with a half smile and a blank stare.
The gills are reddish-purple from the blood cells, pulsing through them, pulling oxygen directly from the water.
But if that doesn't work, like if there is not enough oxygen in the water, the axolotl has a backup, fully functional lungs. It can use to gulp air from the surface. These organs are evolutionary leftovers from when its ancestors lived on land.
hang on ⪢⪢
Even as it grows up to a foot in length, it hangs on to its larval lifestyle.
Harnessing this healing ability for humans would be a breakthrough.
It's named after an Aztec God who escaped death by morphing this amphibian shape.
Here, in the remnants of their ancestral home, only a few hundreds are left.
In time, many salamanders shed these features, develop lungs and crawl onto land.
It grows into a tadpole, a larva with gills and a flattened fin-shaped tail.
And that's amazing for a vertebrate, an animal with a backbone like us.