Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Species: the Mexican Axolotl

The Mexican Axolotl has always been one of those strange creatures I've come to know and love. I even had a pet axolotl as a child. I wish I had a picture of him to share with you!

Unfortunately, the axolotl has been facing devastation from polluted waters and disease to being considered a delicacy in its homeland. Living exclusively in the Xochimilco lakes with a population of over 1500 per square mile, they have dwindled down to a staggering 25 per square mile and are now a critically endangered species.

Axolotls rarely undergo complete metamorphosis and keep their larval characteristics such as gills and dorsal fins. But these undeveloped axolotls will still live full lives anywhere from 10-15 years and grow up to a foot long. Because it is rare for them to fully develop, most of these salamanders spend their whole lives living underwater. However, some will eventually descend from the depths onto land and become full adult axolotls.

These fascinating creatures are the most studied salamanders in the world due to their regenerative abilities. This means that they can re-grow lost body parts like arms, legs, and tails. Scientists have even determined that they are able to regenerate heart and brain cells and studying the species has vastly contributed to the research of regenerative medicine.

Even Happy Aquarium supports the Axolotl!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Species: the Apache Cicada

I apologize for the long hiatus from posting. For my absence, I decided to start a new posting schedule, one of which will introduce a new species of plant or animal every Sunday. Today, I introduce to you the Apache cicada.

Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of my life, I didn't get much interaction with cicadas. I still don't but I am definitely made aware of their presence by their buzzing. When I first moved to Palm Springs, I didn't even know they were in this territory. That buzzing I heard all the time, I simply thought was bad wiring. I remember ignorantly commenting to my fiance about how Palm Springs should really fix their electrical systems. He promptly corrected me and told me that no, those are cicadas. Today, they reminded me that they were back this summer, and in force! Driving down the street with my windows open, every tree hummed with joy.

The Diceroprocta Apache cicada lives in the southwest region of the United States. Like all typical cicadas, they live as nymphs underground and feed on roots and tree sap, only to come out once every 3-years to mate and eventually die. Here in the Sonoran Desert area, the Apache cicadas have overlapping "schedules" so are heard (but seldom seen) in the early summer every year. 

Much to many peoples' surprise, the Apache cicada is able to survive harsh temperatures out in the open by sweating the nectar it feeds on. This allows for them to have as much opportunity to mate as possible during their short adult lives. As the males buzz for hours on end throughout the day and night, the females are attracted to the sound and are able to continue the cycle of life. Then about two weeks later, the buzzing ends and we look forward to a new chorus next summer. Until next time, Apache cicada!

Picture from