VSL:SCIENCE // Meet the world’s cutest (and most endangered) species

Mexican scientists report that the axolotl salamander — a.k.a. the Mexican walking fish — is nearing extinction. Which raises a question: Why are the best/cutest/weirdest-looking species always the first to go?

Axolotls are known for their surreal faces: their manelike gills, azure eyes, and wry amphibian smiles. But they also come with one very cool talent: The animals can regenerate most of their body parts, and axolotls that lose limbs can regrow them in a matter of weeks. And so, whether or not wild axolotls disappear — and scientists expect them to within a few years — science labs will continue to cultivate them. If we ever learn how to grow our own body parts in a petri dish, we might have the axolotl to thank.

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VSL:SCIENCE // Meet the world’s cutest (and most endangered) species