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The axolotl is a kind of amphibian, specifically a salamander, that does not metamorphose naturally. Usually, amphibians have gills and live underwater when they are young, but then they lose their gills, develop lungs, and live on land as adults.

Axolotls, however, keep their gills and continue living in the water as adults. Their gills are their most recognizable trait because they look like wispy feathers.

Axolotls also develop lungs. Although their main method of breathing is through their gills, they occasionally use their lungs to breathe in air from the water?s surface. Because they live in water their whole lives, they always have a tail and webbed feet for swimming.

Axolotls average 23 cm (9 in.) in length. They vary in color from pinkish to brownish green, and often appear to be smiling because of the shape of their mouth.