James Monaghan, a biologist at Boston’s Northeastern University, began studying axolotls during a grad school project and stuck with them since.

“If they’re paralyzed in the back they can recover the functions of their legs … They can make all new neurons and new connections that allow them to use their legs again, which is really one of the most incredible examples of recovery.”

His most recent research has focused on what genes regulate the axolotls’ regenerative abilities, testing what happens when certain genes are turned on or off. The axolotl “is a great model because it has a wide tool set to study regeneration,” he said.