Meet Aloxotl (pronounced ah-loh-shottle) – most likely the cutest little amphibian you’ve ever seen. A quick google search reveals it and ancient Aztec religion revered it. This gorgeous little creature is almost unbelievable, but don’t underestimate how important its potential may be in revolutionising human history.
Aloxotls are neotenic and do not fully mature unlike their other salamander counterparts. This means they live out their lives underwater in a ‘Peter Pan’ style prolonged youth. They have been invaluable assets to genetic science and scientists are close to the point of having fully mapped out their entire genome.
This salamander is special because of their uncanny ability to regenerate almost every part of their body including parts of their brain, and in lab environments their gills are able to transform into lungs under the right circumstances.
Studying Aloxotls provides geneticists with incredible insights that could eventually be adapted to human medicine. One ability this friendly-faced amphibian has is to convert cells at the site of injury back into stem cells where they become much more malleable. Although this process has been hitherto mysterious, a fully mapped out genome will give scientists the co-ordinates to zero in on the exact communication between different genes.
However, this story of hope and wonder comes with a serious slice of caution pie. Aloxotl’s in their natural habitats are severely endangered as Mexico City has expanded evermore over the Mexican landscape.
Although Aloxotls can survive in artificial tanks, preserving a wild population is essential if scientists want to be able to apply their insights to the human genome.
Students considering any Biology related degrees should definitely spend more time researching the particulars of the Aloxotl genome and its implications on stem cell advancement. Geographers and Earth Scientists might want to consider the environmental frame of this story as an example of species endangerment through human destruction of natural habitats.