Axolotl

Today’s endangered creature hails from Mexico City. Specifically a lake called Xochimilco (prounciation: So-chee-mill-co). Axolotl (pronounced: ack-suh-lah-tuhl) are very unique in the marine world. They are often referred to as walking fish but they’re actually amphibians. If you think of frogs and how they have different larval stages, the axolotl is basically an adult amphibian that keeps its larval stages throughout adulthood and unlike frogs that go from water to land, the axolotl stays in the water, retains it’s tail and gills even though it develops fully functioning lungs. The technical term for this is called neoteny. It’s like an adult who always looks like a kid. Axoltol were named after an aztec God who was known to be a water monster that turned himself into a salamander to avoid sacrifice.

Axoltol range in color from dark brown or blackish to albino although the albino ones don’t occur naturally. They have four stumpy limbs and their gills resemble a feathery shape on either side of their head. They become sexually mature around 12-18 months. Males do a little jig and then deposit their sperm packets on rocks and other sea plants. Then the female comes along and takes the packets up through her cloacea (yeah, this is a thing) and inititates fertilization internally. Up to 400 eggs are laid within 24 hours and they hatch in about two weeks. The young will feed primarily on algae but adults are carnivores feasting on small mollusks and crustaceans. Axoltol live about 10-15 years in the wild.

baby axolotl

One of the most unique features an axolotl has is the ability to regnerate parts of it’s body. Usually when an animal gets wounded, it forms scar tissue. When axolotl’s are wounded, they regnerated whole body parts and even organs. They are known to regrow whole pieces of tissue, limbs and even organs. In fact, a study showed an axolotl able to regrow parts of of its brain. Astounding!

Unfortunately, axolotl are listed, and have been listed since 2006, as critically endangered. The exact population size is not known but the last known area study only produced 42 individuals. The channels of the lake with its brackish water is their only home but they are severely threatened by lake contamination due to sewage dumping, exotic pet trade and being captured by the natives who consider the axolotl a delicacy.

The species is currently under special protection by the government of Mexico. Steps have been taken to increase awareness of the axolotl through eco-tourism and the lake has undergone bio-restoratoration. There are many captive-bred colonies around the world due to the pet trade but they can not be introduced back into the wild until testing has been done to determine if the genetic pool won’t affect the wild population in a negative way. Hopefully this combination of things are able to stop the rapid fall into extinction that the axolotl are currently up against.

(Sources: Arkive, IUCN, Wiki, NatGeo)
(Image Sources: Featured, Axolotl Egg)

25 thoughts on “Axolotl

  1. We learned about these little creatures last year and thought about buying a few for pets. They’re really cheap which is surprising. Amazing little things! They are the coolest. 💖 Great post, Nel. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. Most people only see the albino ones cause they’re huge in the exotic pet trade. The fact that they can regnerate their brain blew my mind though. Really awesome. 🙂

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  2. I learn about the weirdest and most amazing creatures on you blog!
    I saw just the title of your post and immediately thought, ‘that looks like one of those Aztec words i can never pronounce’… then saw your opening line. Thanks for the pronunciation guide 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I aim to please! You are very welcome. I try to add pronounciation if I see it for sure cause I’m sitting here guessing what these things say too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 You’re welcome and agreed! Being named after a god is always super cool! I hope they begin to lose their critically endangered status. They’re such cool creatures.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed this post Linda. 🙂 I didn’t know they were so endangered either. In fact, I thought they were all domestic pets to begin with but I guess now. Opened my eyes a lot and I agree with you, I hope no more of the wild population is taken!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I just love this creature.i heard about them for the first time about 10 years ago and I thought…wow…amazing.
    Thank you for doing these posts. People adore them and you and so do I
    ❤️❤️💋

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You said “marine” world and said they live in “brackish” water, but I know people who keep these creatures and they keep them specifically in fresh water. You sure they’re brackish/marine in the wild?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure. They’ve been heavily domesticated to the point that they can live in freshwater but the original ancestors that still exist and are endangered cannot.

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