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Mexican Walking Fish: Model for Limb Regeneration

NSF Award:

LSCBR: Operational Support for the Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center  (University of Kentucky Research Foundation)

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Researchers at the Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center (AGSC) at the University of Kentucky maintain a collection of Mexican axolotls, also known as Mexican walking fish, that provide living materials in support of research and educational activities in the U.S. and abroad.

The axolotl's ability to regenerate its limbs gives researchers an important model to study in their quest to learn why some organisms can regenerate complex tissues such as entire limbs, while others (including humans) cannot.

Mexican walking fish are salamanders--amphibians comfortable in the water and walking on land. Unlike other amphibians, who morph from egg to larvae to adult, the axolotl remains in a larval state as adults. Many of the creatures raised in laboratories today, including most of those at AGSC, are descendants of specimens given to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris during the 1860s.

Scientists study these nearly foot-long creatures because they are unique among vertebrates in their ability to perfectly regenerate numerous body parts. These include the spinal cord, limbs, jaw and tail, all of which can be regenerated at any point during embryonic, larval and adult life. Axolotls are also used by researchers working in areas such as ecology, conservation biology, development, cell biology, genetics and neurobiology.

The AGSC also provides science outreach for K-12 education and the public.


  • mexican walking fish
An albino Mexican axololt.
Randal Voss and Jeramiah Smith

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