Friday, January 19, 2018

Dante Pallone attempts to feed a mealworm to his pet axolotl Alejandro last Thursday afternoon at his home in Hardin.Alejandro sees his reflection while wandering about his water tank.

Dante Pallone to present information on rare salamander at 4-H Youth Fair

At first sight, rural Montana might not seem like the place to find exotic, endangered animals. But 14-year-old Dante Pallone, son of Mario and Leigh Ann Pallone, has been raising a rare albino axolotl – a fully aquatic salamander – at his home near Hardin. He will host a presentation on the creature at the 4-H Youth Fair next week.
The axolotl is native to Mexico’s Lake Xochimilco and Lake Calcho. Lake Calcho was drained, and Lake Xochimilco is now a canal. This contributes to the endangerment of the salamander, as new, non-native fish were introduced to the canal, eating the axolotl. It’s also considered a delicacy in Mexico, further thinning its numbers.
As Dante cannot take his axolotl Alejandro to the fair, he is making an informational poster about the species for the water aquatics event. The poster covers the basics of taking care of an axolotl, their origin, why they’re endangered and more. Along with the water aquatics, Dante will be competing in dog agility, swine showmanship, archery and sport fishing. He sees the aquatics project as an opportunity to teach people about axolotls.
“I had him, and there was an aquatics project,” he said. “I was like, hey, maybe I can teach people about this thing, because no one really knows anything about [axolotls].
The species of salamander also subject to many different medical studies, on account of its regenerative properties. It has the ability to regenerate lost body parts, and according to Dante, “they are 1,000 times more resistant to cancer than humans.” 
In his case, Alejandro was kept in a fish tank with a goldfish in the pet shop, and the goldfish ate the tips of his external gills off. Since then, the axolotl has slowly been growing them back.
“It’s a really neat animal,” he said. “It can regenerate lost parts, so if I cut off its leg … or one of it’s spinal vertebrae, it would grow right back.”
Dante, who will be in the eighth grade at Hardin Middle School next year, hopes to make another, more in-depth project on the axolotl in future 4-H events.