The axolotl has lizard-like limbs, branching gills protruding from both sides of the head, and a nature-made smile that is unusually cute. The Axolotl is commonly called the “Mexican salamander,” or “Mexican walking fish,” even though the axolotl is not a fish at all, but an amphibian. Wild axolotl are found exclusively in Xochimilco, Mexico they can be found all over the world as domesticated or captive animals. Read on to learn about the axolotl.
Description of the Axolotl
Domestic axolotls were specially bred to display a white body coloration, paired with black eyes, but wild axolotls are normally black or a greenish brown, with red eyes. This species’ fancy headdress is actually the salamander’s gills, which allow the creature to breath under water. The axolotl is large compared to most salamanders, reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length, and weighing up to 8 ounces (225 g).
The axolotl has a rare physical trait called neoteny, meaning the amphibian keeps the tadpole-like dorsal fin that was present during the animal’s larval life cycle stage. The axolotl differs from most salamanders, as the axolotl prefers to make the water its permanent habitat. However, if environmental factors require the amphibian to do so, the axolotl can make its body progress into adulthood to adapt to life on land.
Interesting Facts about the Axolotl
The axolotl is one of the rarest species of salamander in the world. This amphibian’s unique and rare characteristics have made it so popular, it has even sparked the interest of scientists.
- Neoteny – The axolotl salamander can retain characteristics of both larval and adult stages. For example, the axolotl will keep its gills, even though it has grown lungs to breath air.
- Amazing Regeneration – It is not uncommon for amphibious species to regrow a limb, but the axolotl can rebuild its brain, spine, and just about every body part it was born with.
Habitat of the Axolotl
In the wild, the axolotl amphibian’s favorite home is at the bottom of Xochimilico’s canals and lakes. The Mexican salamander often makes a shelter of reeds, or rock structures for security. In captivity, the axolotl is kept in a temperature-controlled aquarium, furnished with artificial plants, rocks, and areas in which to hide, to mimic its natural habitat.
Distribution of the Axolotl
The wild axolotl is found exclusively in the Xochimilco, Mexico lake complex, near Mexico City. As only 6,000 axolotl amphibians were reported in 1998, and in 2014, no axolotls were reported at all, researchers count themselves lucky to find a single axolotl living in the wild. However, because the axolotl has the rare ability to regenerate lost limbs and other body parts, they are the most scientifically studied salamander in the world. The axolotl’s seemingly magical ability to regrow its own body has made this species grow in popularity. They are now found all over the world in laboratories, zoos and aquariums, and as domesticated animals.
Diet of the Axolotl
The axolotl is a carnivore, primarily dinning on worms, small fish, crustaceans, insect larvae, mollusks, and any other small prey the wild axolotl seems fit. Domesticated axolotl pets have a diet consisting of bloodworms, black worms, white worms, Daphnia, and commercially-purchased salmon pellets.
Axolotl and Human Interaction
The axolotl salamander is the most widely researched salamander in the world, making this amphibian a permanent resident in laboratories. Regeneration of limbs is not an uncommon trait in several amphibious species, but the axolotl can rebuild its brain, spines, and other parts that cannot be rebuilt by others.
Scientists find this rare ability useful in human medicine, and are conducting experiments in an attempt to harness the ability of regeneration for the human race. Humans are mammals, so the axolotl’s genetic makeup is not compatible. So far, the ability for a person to regrow an arm or other body parts is unobtainable. The axolotl’s DNA could someday aid in the human healing process, however, so research continues.
The axolotl is in popular demand in the aquarium trade, taking more and more wild axolotl out of their natural habitat. Laboratories, captivity research facilities, and common pet owners have domesticated the axolotl.
Does the Axolotl Make a Good Pet
The axolotl is a popular exotic pet on the aquarium circuit. The axolotl is unlike any other salamander in the world, and is a unique pet to display in the home.
The axolotl in captivity requires an environmental temperature at approximately 61° F (16° C) to 64° F (18° C). Temperatures lower than these could be lethal to the salamander, and temperatures higher than these could lead to an increase in metabolic rate. A single axolotl requires at least 10 gallons (40 liters) of non-chlorinated water in a spacious tank, furnished with a filter, hiding place, as well as plants and rocks to mimic its natural habitat.
A proper diet of protein-based foods, such as worms or small fish, should be fed to the axolotl daily. To avoid parasitic contamination, avoid live prey, and follow up with a professional exotic pet veterinarian.
Behavior of the Axolotl
The axolotl is one of the most unique salamanders in the world, but to watch these amphibians can be rather boring, as they are not very active creatures. The axolotl enjoys hiding in plants and rocks, as far down in the water as possible. When the axolotl does move, it moves rather slowly, unless he or she is in courtship, where the male and female will “dance” around the aquarium.
Reproduction of the Axolotl
The axolotl can reach sexual maturity any time after five months of age, depending on the salamander’s overall health, provided nutrition, and water temperature. The males generally reach sexual maturity before the females. This is because the females can lay over 1,000 eggs at a time, and their bodies have more “prep” time than the males. The male and female go through a courtship before mating, as the male leads the female around the tank. The male leaves a packet of sperm called a spermatophore, for the female to pick up and fertilize her eggs.