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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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)
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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)
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)
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