Wednesday, June 27, 2012


When I was a kid these are the kind of salamanders that came wandering up from Moore Lake into the brand new Fridley suburb of Minneapolis we had moved into in 1956.  (Note: I found all these photos today via google search.)
  After a good rain they came waddle-sliding along and fell into the new window wells.
I wandered around the neighborhood with an empty three pound Folgers coffee can that had a little water on the bottom...
...and I'd lay down on my belly to reach down into the window wells and collect the lost salamanders so that I could bring them back down by the lake.  If I forgot...mummified salamanders.  :( 
I fell in love with these silly, gentle things and still have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Years later, when I was working in pet shops, something new became available.  Well, how could I not fall in love with axylotls!  The first one I took home I got for free because three of its legs had been chewed off by other axylotls before it ever got to the store.  When it tried to walk along the bottom it rolled and spun, poor thing.  It was a black one similar to the one below.  I hand fed it and kept it in a tank with lower water to prevent as much spinning.  Blew my mind!  All his legs and feet grew back within a few weeks!  The manager at the store didn't know that axylotls could regenerate limbs, but let me keep him.  I had him order copies of the one book we could find on axylotls.
I named him Axel.  I know.  Not very original.  But I named him after goofy, Scandinavian-accented Axel from Axel's Tree House that I used to watch as a kid.
So, of course, when I got a white one that looked more feminine, I named her Carmen after Carmen The Nurse who used to visit Axel in his treehouse and later took over the show for him when he died.
And finally a got a hefty brown speckled axylotl and named him Clancy after the Clancy The Cop show as long as I had been following the morning kids' TV show naming theme.  Clancy the Cop and his sidekick, Willie Ketchum--LOL!!  Only kids from Minnesota would remember any of these local original programs.  
 Anyways, I got a lot of questions about what an axylotl was.  They are actually related to tiger salamanders and it can be tricky to tell them apart from the tiger salamander larvae you see below. 
The difference is that axylotls don't turn into salamanders like this tiger salamander larvae form will.  (We got a couple of these in by accident in the shipments at the store.) 
Axylotls remain in larvae form and yet mature and reproduce (lay eggs).  They live out their lives underwater.  But they have been known to switch over and become salamanders if their water supply is drying up.  They can do this in a couple of weeks, but not all of them will be able to do it.  Once they do become a salamander they can no longer regenerate limbs and it shortens their life span from about 15 years down to 5 years.  Amazing survival skill in a pinch, though, don't you think?
You can read more and even see some short videos below in these links.

Edge (videos!)
Axel, Carmen, and Clancy lived about 7 or 8 years in a 30L aquarium.  I don't know what killed them to this day.  Something (in the water? in the frozen food?) killed all three of them within a couple days.  It was shortly after I cleaned the tank, too.  ??  Broke my heart.  I just see pictures of axylotls and they make me smile.  They have the goofiest, sweet faces and they're feisty.
Okay.  I also got asked about the "naming myself" thing.  I never understood what my mom meant by that until I was pregnant with Dagan.  His name kept coming to me over and over--awake and in dreams.  And I could see it spelled D-A-G-A-N with two As.  It wasn't even in the baby name book I had at the time and I couldn't remember ever seeing it in a book or on TV or anything.  (I have seen it since spelled Dagen--but you have to admit it sounds good with McGregor.)  I truly thought I was having a girl.  But when I met my boy--it was like--"Oh, so you're Dagan".  And I couldn't imagine him being anybody else.  ;)
That's it for today.  This took longer than I expected.  I have Caroline coming this afternoon and Dagan and Leah tonight for Sacred I had best get moving here.  ;)
I do have a question or idea to pose, though, before I leave.  I don't mind answering questions at all and will answer almost anything you ask me.  ;)  I just don't like the obligating other people thing.  Now, I have seen a couple other bloggers who invite people to ask them questions and then they'll answer them in posts on their blog.  What would you think of that?  Do any of you have questions you'd like to ask me...about anything at all?  I also have some new people this last year who probably don't know much about me.  What do you think?  Let me know and go ahead and post questions for me if you have any.  If I get a lot of them I could just take one day a week as answer day or something like that.  Don't worry about overwhelming me with questions.  You know how OCD I am.  I'd keep a list going.  Would be nice, actually.  Give me something to talk about--ROFL!  ;)
Happy middle of the week!!  :):)
"Curiosity is free-wheeling intelligence."
Alistair Cooke


Hilary said...

Well I don't have any questions.. I'm quite content to read whatever you have to say though. In a sense.. you question yourself. ;) I love that you and your son each named yourselves, btw. That's a lovely story.

The critters are so cool. What a delight it must have been for you to discover limbs growing back on the hapless spinner.

Your posts are always enjoyable, Rita. And though I'm pretty new here, I'm happy to learn as I read. :)

TexWisGirl said...

enjoyed this post about these odd salamander like creatures! and how adaptable they can be if need be! if we could all be so lucky! :)

Furry Bottoms said...

So that's what an axylotls is! I was wondering. I agree, they do have the goofiest smile and it makes me chuckle!

About questions... you should take them as you go... if you feel like posting the answer, then post it. If not, then not. It is your blog, after all! :)

Beth said...

The critter are cute.

I have one question which you may have answered in a post before. How did you get from Minnesota to North Dakota?

Darla said...

I always enjoy a post where I learn something new and I certainly learned here today. I never knew there were so many salamanders or salamander like creatures.

I don't have a question at the moment but I think question/answer would be a fun thing and I'm sure I could come up with some thoughts on it.


Dana said...

I have a soft spot for all animals, these included. Thanks for sharing this today. :)

Megan Adamson said...

I loved the Salamanders, here we have newts that do the same thing, as in growing back tails.
I am quite happy with the way the things are as I myself am quite a private person. But I believe that it is up to the individual person.
If anyone wants to know anything, then go ahead and ask me straight out.
I love the name Dagen, my niece is Tegen...not with an "A", but she is just 10 months old.
Hope you have a great day!

Toriz said...

I knew some types of lizards could regenerate limbs, but have no idea beyond that; I've never really had much to do with lizards, and nevr really read up on them since I've never been interested enough to do so.

I'm not sure at this exact moment if there's anything I'd like to ask you; I wouldn't mind having the oppertunity though. And I'm extremely nosy so enjoy learning more about people!

AliceKay said...

Very cool post. I had never heard of an axylotl, but it sounds like you had a nice family of them. Never knew there were so many species either. We used to play with salamanders whenever we found them as kids. Used to think they were the coolest things! :)

DJan said...

What a weird animal that axylotl is! I guess I'll go read up on it, since I never even knew it existed before today. I do wonder how you ever got started working in a pet store and why you stopped.

Funny in My Mind said...

Interesting. And creepy.
I love how you just knew your sons name!
I will think of some questions for you soon.

Janie Junebug said...

I would have had questions about axylotis but I'm feeling pretty satisfied with your information. My thirst for knowledge has been quenched. I like it when people ask me questions and I invite them to do so. If I don't want to answer, I can always make up something.


A Plain Observer said...

Carmen was cute and so was Axel. Those salamanders...I won't try to save any.
No snakes on this post so we are good ;)

betty said...

That is interesting about your thinking Dagan for your son's name while you were pregnant with him. I understand now about naming yourself :) thanks for the email about it and further explanation here! Your pets wtih Axel and Carmen sounded so cute; sounds like they most have gotten a bit of a shock after the water was changed that time to have them both die so close to each other after so many years. They do sound like cute pets!


Queenie Jeannie said...

I think I would die if I had to touch a salamander! Too much like a snake for my tastes. We had geckos walking in under our back door here, and the screams were plentiful!!! LOL! I very much enjoyed your stories though. You're one of the most interesting people I've ever met!!!

I hope you had a wonderful evening!! Hugs!

Francene Stanley said...

I love the way Dagan's name came to you. Some things can't be fathomed. Like the cute creature who grew back a leg and toes.

HeARTworks said...

What fantastic creatures! And the pictures you found are amazing! Didn't know you could get them in pet stores. None at all here in the Philippines! I've only seen one picture of the axylotyl and I used it for a powerpoint I made on the Gift of Creativity. I used it to highlight God's creativity and how He made such a diverse and amazing array of animals! Patsy from

Dave said...

What a strange creature the oxylotl is. My son and his wife used to have one. It gave me the creaps, but I guess I never really got to know it. You blog was facinating and full of interesting information Rita. Thanks. - Dave

Jenny Woolf said...

I wondered why you named your son Dagan, it's not a name I have heard about before. Now I know - so that is one question I don't need to ask you !


Zue said...

Such beautiful creatures and how wonderful that you went to such lengths to rescue them.

Asking questions is one way to learn and we should all be open to it...I know am. A wonderfully interesting post:)

Cindy Lane said...

WOW RITA! You are "full bottle" on axolotls! That's an amazing story about the regeneration. They are just so odd looking - I could watch them for hours.

Nice finding out more about you and your history as well!

Karen Smithey said...

What fascinating creatures! I'm going to ask Joel and see if he knows what they are, since he's so all into wildlife stuff...

I love the story about Dagan's name--I've also wondered where it came from! I love the idea that it came to you in a dream...

Serena Lewis said...

My nephew had an axylotl once but it kept eating the small rocks in the could actually see the rocks through his belly as it was fairly transparent. It died and we suspected it was because of the rocks. What an interesting creature they are tho.

The name, Dagan, goes great with the surname McGregor! I like how his name came to you.

I don't have any questions either...I just enjoy reading about your day and any thoughts you have at that particular time.

I think I'm coming down with the rotten flu/cold, courtesy of my son, Beau, who has been sick with it all week. I so hate the clogged up feeling in my head and nose. :(((

Have a fabulous Friday! xo

laurak/ForestWalkArt :) said...

ha! funny stories & pictures!

when i lived in CA...ages ago...after a storm, and the streets were flooded...i actually FOUND this strange looking critter...with feathery the fast rushing water. i had no idea what it internet at the time...and it wasn't til years later that i found out...he was a mudpuppy!! i rescued him and he lived in a kiddie pool on my porch!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Interesting about the axylotls. I never knew you worked in a Pet Shop! Well you know me if I have a question I will ask it! :)

Intense Guy said...

Those salamanders and ax-it-whatcha-call-em do look cute!

Dagan MacGregor does have a cool ring to it... DAY-GAN MACK-GREG-GORE here....