by Rita Goldner
My blog readers have come to expect observations on an array of unfamiliar and sometimes bizarre animals. I find unusual animals not only fascinating from a scientific perspective, but also inspiring, especially if their lifestyle involves hurdles to jump and evolutionary twists on their path to survival of the species. Throw in endangered status, and I’m hooked as a fan and a champion for their cause. Their struggles and ingenious adaptations provide me with life lessons.
My muse for this month is the lowly axolotl. This aquatic creature, measuring 10 to 12 inches in length, lives in the wild – only in the lake complex of Xochimilco (pronounced SO-chee-MILL-koh) near Mexico City. Axolotls are critically endangered in the wild, but oddly enough you can buy one online for $46.95. They breed well in captivity; ergo. millions of them are kept as pets. They’ve reached icon status, known as the smiling pink amphibian.
Never heard of them? Neither had I until very recently. Axolotls are fascinating creatures for a number of reasons, including their other-worldly appearance, ability to regenerate body parts, and – primarily – the phenomenon known as neoteny. This means that instead of maturing from a larva to an adult like other amphibians, they stay in larval form throughout their lives. Some call this a step backward in evolution, because they have to spend their lives in water, like larvae, while other amphibians can walk around on land as adults. Unable to walk around on land and find new habitats when the old ones get polluted, the axolotl are limited. I call it “playing the hand you’re dealt” – which worked fine for centuries, until mankind came along. Besides this penchant for never “growing up,” axolotls have another unusual characteristic: they are the best regenerators ever! They can regrow a limb – and even a spine if it gets crushed.
Now for my segue into some life-lessons from the axolotl for authors:
- Sometimes it might be better to stay in your own milieu instead of crawling out to new environments.
- Become the best at something in your own pond.
- Work hard with whatever assets you have, even if they’re limited.
- Looks don’t matter.
Rita Goldner is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water Cycle, The Flying Artist, and Rose Colored. To view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.