• Anna Tattelman

Behold the Axolotl!

People often refer to the axolotl as “Mexican Walking Fish” even though they aren't fish at all, they are amphibians! You may be unfamiliar with the axolotl, and that is because they are rather uncommon. In fact, they are really only found in the waters of Mexico. 


Background Info:

In the 13th century, when the Aztecs settled into the Valley of Mexico, they found a large salamander living in one of the lakes surrounding their island. They decided to call it "axolotl" after Xolotl, their god of fire and lightning. 


Research of Axolotls:

A huge captive population exists in research labs around the world, involving thousands of axolotls. The ability of regeneration has led many axolotls to a life in captivity. Axolotls are frequently used as test subjects for scientists. What really fascinated biologists is that unlike its relatives, the axolotl does not metamorphosis into a full grown salamander, it stays the same size from his childhood until death. They have also become one of the world's most common pets, for their interesting features such as being easy to care for, and their interesting ability to regenerate. 


Are Axolotls Endangered?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources considers axolotls critically endangered and their population declining. Pollution has played a major role in the lives of axolotls. Waste regulations have been increasing, especially from tourism, in Mexico. For example, plastics, trash, heavy metals, and waste from treatment plants fall into the small canals where salamanders live, causing them to ingest these harmful substances and die. 


Axolotls of Mexico: The loss of the axolotl is traumatic for Mexico City. The creature is crucial, and not only to its ecosystem. Axolotls play a big role in the imagination of Mexico. Murals and graffiti depicting the animal are ubiquitous: in fact, an axolotl recently won a contest for an emoji to represent the city. The fascination extends beyond Mexico’s borders. Roger Bartra – a Mexican anthropologist who has drawn parallels between Mexicans and the axolotl – recently edited a collection of axolotl-inspired texts. 


Interesting Facts about Axolotls

  • An axolotl can grow back lost limbs in only a few weeks. It can even regenerate its lungs, heart, spinal cord and parts of its brain, without even scarring. 

  • An axolotl feeds by suction, not chewing its food

  • Axolotls have very few predators

Axolotls are pretty much on their own in the wild and although they have competitors, only a few creatures enjoy the taste of axolotls. 

  • The breeding ritual includes a dance

The male and female axolotl begin the breeding process with a waltz. It is a dance between the two of them that involves the two rubbing against each other, and it serves as the initiation phase of mating.

  • Males and females are easy to identify

The adult male has a large, wide head and does not have eyelids. They also have a longer tail than the female and a swollen cloaca. The females have a smaller cloaca along with a round, plump body. The female is also often shorter in length than the male.




This is what a rather small axolotl looks like!




Sources:


https://factanimal.com/axolotl/

https://www.livescience.com/axolotl-facts.html

https://geog.ucsb.edu/mexicos-water-monsters-are-becoming-extinct/










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