Rare salamander could hold key to cell regeneration

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Stunning salamander could hold key to cell regeneration

This creature is the stuff of myths but is actually real. Revered as a god by the Aztecs, the axolotl isn't your typical salamander.

This amphibian is often confused as a fish because it never leaves the water.

The Mexican salamander matures undergoes a process called neoteny, which means the animal matures without going through metamorphosis.

While most tadpoles eventually get to walk on the land, the axolotl never gets rid of its gills despite growing lungs.

Don't expect to see these guys all over the world.

The axolotl is critically endangered and only found at Lake Xochimilco in Mexico.

They used to be found in multiple lakes around the area but have been restricted because of the continued expansion of nearby Mexico City, but even Lake Xochimilco is under pressure.

A study from 1998 found there were about 6000 wild axolotls. Now, biologists can barely find them.

The axolotl continues to thrive in captivity though and is highly regarded by scientists studying regeneration. That's because the amphibian can regenerate brains, jaws and even spines without scarring.

Scientists have even transplanted organs from one individual axolotl to another with no complications. This makes them highly regarded in the scientific community as scientists continue to find a way to replicate cell regeneration.

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Lizards doing lizard things
CENTRAL COAST, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15: (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) 'Charlie' the veiled chameleon eats some lunch at the Australian Reptile Park, Somersby on the Central Coast, New South Wales. (Photo by Sam Ruttyn/Newspix/Getty Images)
A green Anole, is seen while searching for insects Saturday, May 10, 2008, near Archer, Fla. The reptile is member of the Iguanid family of lizards and is common in the Southeast part of the U.S. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
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A mother Blotched Blue-tongue Lizard pokes her tongue out as she crawls over her 7 babies while on display for the first time at Wild Life Sydney Zoo in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. The lizards are one of Australiaâs friendly reptiles and can be found in cooler environments and high altitudes like the Blue Mountains, the Victorian High country and as far south as Tasmania. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
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In this Thursday, April 3, 2014 photo, a pigeon rests on a wild iguana in a tree inside Seminario Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Tourists and city officials regularly feed the wild iguanas which are the park's top attraction. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
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A male Jackson's Three-Horned Chameleon crawls along a stick in a garden in Nairobi, Kenya Sunday, May 10, 2015. Native to Kenya and Tanzania and living in woodlands and forests at higher altitudes, Jackson's Chameleons have the ability to change the color of their skin to blend in with their environment, with the males having three horns that resemble those of the dinosaur Triceratops, although they are only a few inches long. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
An endangered Fijian Crested Iguana is perched on a statue of a distant reptilian cousin, a Komodo Dragon, at Sydney's Taronga Zoo Thursday, June 19, 2008. The zoo has begun a program to help save the iguana which survive on only a few scattered Pacific islands. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
A green iguana on display at an exotic animal exhibition eats cooled cucumber during a warm weather in the town of Sevlievo, east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, Wednesday, Aug, 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Petar Petrov)
An Indian garden lizard hangs from a pole at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata, India, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
With temperatures clinging to the low 70s, an iguana suns itself in Davie, Fla., Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. Due to Florida's prominence in the exotic pet trade, iguanas imported as pets have escaped or been released, and are now established in South Florida. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
An iguana races past near a landing strip at the eco-friendly Seymour of Baltra Airport, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. This airport has been declared by U.S. Green Building Council as the world's first ecological airport, especially designed to optimize the island breeze and sunlight, as well as a water reuse system. The iguana was eventually captured by a worker, and removed to a non-trafficked area. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
An employee of Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau holds one of five sailfin lizards that were smuggled into Hong Kong earlier this year and brought back to the Philippines as they are prepared for rehabilitation before being released to the natural habitat at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines, Friday June 8, 2012. The lizards were smuggled into Hong Kong along with 18 Philippine pond turtles and 13 Asian box turtles by a Chinese national named "Zhang Wenwei" Feb. 8, 2012 and seized by Hong Kong customs officials. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A black and white Argentine Tegu lizard sticks out its tongue at the Yebo Gogga exhibition at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The five-day event showpieces small animals, plants, insects, snakes and all things connected to nature!(AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
A photo taken on August 10, 2015 shows a panther chameleon at the Paris Zoological Park (parc zoologique de Paris), formerly known as the Bois de Vincennes Zoological Park, in Paris . The zoo reopened to the public on April 12, after 6 years of renovation work . AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
In this July 9, 2014 photo, a monitor lizard sits at the Bannerghatta National Park on the outskirts of Bangalore, India. Wildlife activists in India have raised an alarm that scores of lesser known animal species are being pushed to the brink of extinction because of rampant poaching and trafficking, while conservation efforts over the past two decades were focused on saving India's iconic tigers and rhinos. The growing demand for lizard skin, meat and bones has led to the near-disappearance of the monitor lizard in the Indian countryside. Monitor lizard meat, especially the tongue and liver, is mistakenly believed to have aphrodisiacal properties, while lizard skin finds use in high-end bags and belts. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
A green iguana albino is pictured at the Parc 'L'Ile aux Serpents' in Trimouille, France on July 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Guillaume SOUVANT (Photo credit should read GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)
A two-week old Frill-necked lizard basks on a rock in his enclosure at Wild Life Park Sydney at Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (Photo/Rob Griffith)

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