Axolotls are beautiful and unusual animals that have interested people for a long time. Most people who meet axolotls wonder if they change colour.
Do Axolotls Change Color?
Keep in mind that this is a very rare and uncommon thing to happen. The most likely to change colour are wild-type and albino axolotls, but leucistic axolotls can’t.
Still, no one knows why axolotls change color. But this is supposed to help them blend in with their surroundings.
For example, an axolotl in a dark tank might make its skin brighter to look like the lighter rocks and gravel at the bottom of the tank. On the other hand, an axolotl in a tank with a lot of light may darken its skin to blend in with the darkness.
When an axolotl is scared or worried, its colour changes, too. When they feel threatened, their skin gets darker and their chromatophores get bigger. This is done so that predators won’t be as interested in them.
EverythingReptiles.com says that there are more than 20 different kinds of axolotls. Each one has its own colour and look, and many people keep them as pets.
We’ll talk about the different kinds of axolotls, the colours they change into, and how this unusual thing happens, so you can understand it better.
Origin of Axolotls
The axolotl is a salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) that always lives in water. They only live in one place on Earth, which is Lake Xochimilco in the middle of Mexico.
Axolotls have caught our attention for many different reasons. First of all, they look different from all other amphibians. Their bodies are long, and each of their four legs ends in a webbed foot.
Axolotls have gills that stick out from the sides of their heads, giving them a prehistoric look.
The most unique thing about the axolotl is that it can grow missing body parts. When an axolotl loses a limb, it might be able to grow it back. It has the same spinal cord, heart, and other organs.
Second, axolotls can change the colour of their skin. Most of the time, they are brown or black, but sometimes they are white, albino, green, or even pink.
They can change colours like chameleons because they have chromatophores, which are cells in their skin. These cells with pigments grow and shrink to change the colour of the axolotl’s skin.
Types of Axolotls
Even though there are many different kinds of axolotls, the three most common ones today are:
The Wild Type
The wild axolotl is the most common type, and it has dark brown skin with black spots. As the name says, this is the kind of axolotl that lives in the wild. In captivity, they can also change colour, but not as often as the other two species.
This is because they have a genetic flaw that makes their skin have fewer chromatophores. Because of this, they can’t make as much pigment, which makes them look paler.
Albino axolotls also have fewer chromatophores when they are born. Unlike leucistic axolotls, they have no spots and are all white. This is because their skin doesn’t have enough melanin, which gives skin its colour.
How Do Axolotls Change Color?
Axolotls are unique animals with unique characteristics. They have special cells in their skin called chromatophores.
These cells make pigment and change the colour of the axolotl’s skin. The chromatophores of an axolotl come in three types: erythrophores, xanthophores, and melanophores.
Erythrophores are red chromatophores that help make axolotls look pink or red. Axolotls are gold or orange in colour because of yellow chromatophores called xanthophores. Melanophores are the black chromatophores that make axolotls brown or black.
When an axolotl wants to change colour, the chromatophores in its skin grow or shrink. This is controlled by the nervous system, which is in turn controlled by hormones.
When the chromatophores get bigger, the axolotl’s skin gets darker because it makes more pigment. As they get smaller, they make less pigment, so the axolotl’s skin gets lighter.
This kind of animal looks like an albino, but albinos have blue eyes.
The mutation that causes leucism is one that makes the skin make fewer melanocytes. Because melanocytes make melanin, a dark pigment, these axolotls don’t have the same patterns as the wild-type morph.
2. Golden Albino
Golden albinos come in a wide range of colours, from almost pure white to peach, yellow, and orange-gold.
The spots and dots on their bodies reflect light, and their eyes are white, yellow, or pink. They also have lighter yellow gills that look like peaches.
As young animals, they look the same as white albinos and are also sensitive to bright light. They don’t get their beautiful golden colour until they’re old.
The golden albino has no melanophores, just like most of the other light-colored axolotls on this list.
This morph is different because it still has xanthophores, which make it look golden yellow. People who have a lot of iridophores may look like they are covered in gold leaf.
3. Wild Type
In the wild, axolotls are dark green with black and olive spots. They have gold spots called iridophores and a light belly. They look like wild animals because they have the same colours and patterns.
Depending on the animal, wild axolotls can be almost black, grey, or a lighter yellow-green color.
This type is different because its gill filaments are purple and its eyes are black with golden irises. Because of their colour, they might get lost in the muddy lakebeds near Mexico City.
Piebalds are white with red gills, black eyes, and symmetrical dark green, grey, or black patches on their faces and backs.
Sometimes, but not often, you can see these marks on their sides and legs. Most of this pattern is on the upper part of the body.
The piebald gene is passed down from parent to child, but it is very rare, and most breeders are in New Zealand. This pattern gets darker as the salamander gets older, which could make it turn black and white.
This is a leucistic morph whose heads and backs have a lot of melanophores. This happens because cells called neural crest cells move around in the egg when it is still young.
They were made when two eggs got together. Instead of being split down the middle, the colours of each cell come from either parent at random. This gives the axolotl a beautiful and unique colour.
Mosaics happen by chance and can’t be planned for. They are rare and rarely sold, but you might be able to find them sometimes.
The body of an axolotl is light grey, and its freckles are copper-colored. Its eyes are grey. They also have gills that are greyish red and a lighter belly. Some copper axolotls look like caramel, while others look almost pink.
This morph is popular in places where it is sold because it has a cute face with spots and a sandy color.
The first lines of copper axolotls were made in the US and Australia. In other places, it is harder to get by with them.
The copper morph is a form of albinism that is not as bad. They have lower amounts of melanin and pteridine, but these pigments aren’t completely gone.
Coppers can mate with other morphs to make new types like melanoid copper and axanthic copper.
The lavender axolotl is a silvery purple colour, and its gills are grayish-red. Its eyes are black. Their bodies also have grey spots, which is how they got the name “silver Dalmatian.”
Some types of lavender may turn grey or green as they age, but most of them stay purple. Melanoid hybrids with the appearance of lavender but a deeper purple colour and no spots are also produced.This mix of colours, on the other hand, is not very common.
8. Black Melanoid
This recessive mutation was found in a lab in 1961, and it is very common right now. Albinos are the exact opposite of melanoids, which are black. Melanoid species have more melanophores and fewer iridophores than other species.
They can be dark green to almost black, and their gills are dark purple. Most melanoids have a lighter grey or purple colour on their bellies. Some people look like black wild-type axolotls, but they don’t have the shiny golden iris that wild axolotls usually have.
Black melanoids can change colour depending on what they are attached to. This is not a permanent change, and your axolotl’s colour will change with any substrate:
- If you put your axolotl on a light surface, like white sand, it will get brighter.
- A dark substrate results in a dark individual.
9. White Albino
White albinos are all white. Their gill filaments are red, their eyes are pink or white, and there are gold spots on their gill stalks. Young white albinos, especially on their bellies, can look almost clear. As they get older, the iridophores on their gills get darker red, but the rest of their white bodies stay the same.
White albinos are related to leucistic axolotls, but their eyes don’t have any colour because they don’t have any pigment. Because of this, white albinos are more sensitive to light and can’t see as well as other types of axolotl.
10. Speckled Leucistic
Spotted leucism is a type of leucism that can happen to axolotls. Dark green, brown, or black spots cover their heads, tails, and backs. Their base colour is white, just like regular leucistic morphs, and they don’t have as many spots as piebald or mosaic morphs do.
This axolotl usually starts out looking leucistic, but it gets spots as it gets older. As they grow, their pigment cells change, which changes the colour and pattern of their freckles.
The chimera is so rare that some people question whether or not it should be considered a real morph.
Chimeras have different forms on different parts of their bodies. Along the middle, it is split into left and right parts. There aren’t many chimeras, and the ones that do exist are half albino and half wild.
A chimera axolotl is made when two eggs that are growing together turn into one. Most do not hatch because the two eggs did not fuse completely.
Chimeras aren’t caused by genes, so they can’t be made in a certain way. Instead, they are the result of an accident during development.
12. Heavily-Marked Melanoid
The black melanoid morph has a different type called “heavily marred melanoids.” They have black and purple-gray dots like most black melanoids, but they also have small patches of green and yellow.
13. Green Fluorescent Protein
Green fluorescent protein axolotls look like any other morph at first glance. But when they are exposed to UV light, they flash a bright green.
This trait can’t be seen in normal light, but it stands out clearly in UV light. People with lighter skin, like albinos and leucistics, stand out.
The gene for green fluorescent protein was found in jellyfish, and it was purposefully put into the axolotl genome. In 2005, scientists at the Max Planck Institute made this morph to study the movement of cells and cancer.
Lloyd Strohl made the firefly axolotls, which are a type of artificial morph. Embryonic graphing was first used to study how limbs grow back, and the idea of using it to make pets is controversial.
Because they have to be made in a lab, fireflies are not very common. They are wild-type axolotls that are dark in colour and have green fluorescent protein on their tails.
They are called “fireflies” because only parts of their bodies light up when a blacklight shines on them. A wild type that looks like a firefly but has an albino tail will only shine bright green on the tail.
The Enigma morph is dark grey with white toes and a white belly. Its gills are light red, and its eyes are golden. It has golden streaks that shine and sometimes look green.
There is only one mystery left, and no one knows anything about its genes or how the morph is passed down.
What Factors Affect An Axolotl’s Coloration?
The colour of an axolotl can be affected by its diet, its stress level, the temperature, and its genes.
Changes in temperature can also make chromatophores grow or shrink. So, when axolotls are moved to a new tank or when the temperature in their tank changes, they often change colour.
If an axolotl is stressed, its colour may change. When they are under stress, their chromatophores get bigger, and they make more pigment. This could make their colour change.
But the child could be any colour if one parent is black and melanoid and the other is leucistic. There’s also a chance that the babies could be something completely different, like albinos or GFP.
The colour of an axolotl may be affected by what it eats. If axolotls eat a lot of carotenoids, for example, they might turn orange or yellow.
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