Axolotls are amiable-looking salamanders that never change from their “tadpole” state. Although we love them for their appearance and remarkable capacity for regeneration, wild axolotls are Critically Endangered in their native Mexico. Continue reading to learn more about these fascinating animals.
The axolotl, or AX-oh-lot-ul, is a kind of salamander that is mysterious and defies common biological rules like metamorphosis by maintaining its webbed feet securely in place throughout its existence.
In contrast to other salamander species, axolotls retain their juvenile traits far into maturity due to their neotenic lifestyle. Throughout its life, axolotls remain aquatic, much like larvae. It grows complete lungs, but for underwater breathing it employs elegant feathery gills. They still have their tail, body fin, and external gills, and their eyelids are immobile, just like baby fish.
These unusual animals are infrequently observed in person in the southern Mexico City suburb of Xochimilco, around Lakes Xochimilco and Lake Chalco.
The axolotl, descended from the tiger salamander, is considered “young” because, according to some specialists, it has only been living in central Mexico for the last 10,000 years. Much of the suitable habitat that was once home to these two spring-fed lakes on the southern margin of the Basin of Mexico has been drained. After drainage work were finished 85 years ago, the Xochimilco-Chalco basin—which was originally roughly 77 square miles (200 square kilometers) of marshes, swamps, and lagoons—was much reduced in size. The axolotl is endearing and deeply ingrained in Mexican identity, culture, and history.
However, not much information is available.
regarding the axolotl populations’ ecology. This is an unexpected condition considering how often axolotls are studied in science. However, it is challenging to get data regarding their behavior due to their small and typically unreachable populations. The knowledge we have about axolotls comes from studying colonies kept in laboratories.
Because they are dark-colored, axolotls can change their color to blend in with their surroundings by a few shades. People breed pink and light-colored axolotls as pets because of their “pleasant” colors.
Their ability to regenerate their limbs, lungs, heart, jaws, spines, and even portions of their brain is another superpower that is being studied in labs! Axolotls can flawlessly regenerate a new limb five times in a matter of weeks, according to scientific research. even a wound. Skin, bone, cartilage, muscle, and stem cells are all replaced. Some organs are fully functional and capable of several regenerations. It makes sense that scientists would want to use that talent for human medicine.
Another incredible trait worth looking into is the claim that axolotls are over a thousand times more resistant to cancer than mammals.
Axolotls can grow up to 18 inches long, however they typically only reach 9 inches. Axolotls have mottled greenish colors and black skin, with some having silvery highlights. Its huge head, adorned with its characteristic feathery gills that softly wave in the water, protrudes from its broad, flat body. Its mouth is frequently expressive, curved into a little grin. Round black eyes with shimmering golden irises take in the gloomy surroundings. It moves along the lakebed on limbs resembling those of a lizard. It is about the same weight as a soup can. The axolotl can go an incredible 10 miles per hour (15 kilometers per hour) in an emergency.
HABITAT AND DIET
View of the lake
Since the axolotl is lentic, it lives in lakes with still water. There are just two places where they may be found: Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in Mexico. These places are Critically Endangered because of pollution, habitat degradation, and water diversion from the region’s expanding human population.
By constructing “shelters” in Xochimilico with piles of boulders and reedy vegetation to help filter pure water that is piped in, environmentalists are attempting to assist the axolotl. We can only hope that these incredible creatures will procreate and prosper.
Every day in the life
Axolotls can effectively hunt and consume worms, mollusks, crustaceans, insect larvae, and even small fish, despite with their adorable baby appearance and immature teeth! They dig beneath the mud and aquatic plants during the day to escape being eaten, then at night they transform into
lively and ravenous. They breathe underwater through their gills, although occasionally they will surface for a brief breath.
Giving them human attention and food is another story. Are the axolotls better off eating the same thing every day or a diversified diet? A recent study examined three distinct diets: an invariant bloodworm; an invariant small aquatic crustacean called Daphnia; and a combination of these two prey items. When fed a mixed diet, the juvenile axolotls grew at an intermediate pace; they grew fastest when fed bloodworms and slowly when fed Daphnia. As a result, while people may enjoy a diverse diet, it may not be as good for axolotl growth or welfare as a proper, high-quality, uniform diet.
A Hoover meal
The axolotl eats worms, tadpoles, insects, and small fish by using a suction method. Inhaled gravel aids in the breakdown of food in the stomach, much like grit aids in the digestion of food in birds.
In the wild, axolotls have few predators, though occasionally they can be eaten by herons and storks, as well as big fish like tilapia and carp. Urbanization and pollution of the freshwater lakes and ponds they live in pose the greatest threat to them. Their ongoing decline is partly attributed to overcrowding for food and medicine, invasive fish, and huge birds preying on them.
Dance with me!
After reaching sexual maturity at the age of six months, axolotls March to June, a time when the water’s temperature and level are more moderate.
Mating is initiated by a male and female dancing a waltz. They spin in a circle, rubbing and sliding against each other’s cloaca. Upon approximately half a minute of intense tail flapping, the male releases a “cone-shaped mass with a sperm cap.”
The woman gathers the cone
Following her own tail-shaking performance, she releases her cloaca to begin fertilizing her 300–1,000 eggs. To elude predators, she deposits her eggs one at a time on rocks or bushes. When the eggs hatch after two weeks, the young can swim and run with the best of them.
Living in two freshwater lakes are axolotls.
In the heart of Mexico City, the world’s largest city. Pollution and expanding human populations are two factors that are causing this salamander to become less common.
In an effort to help the axolotls in Xochimilico, conservationists are constructing “shelters” using stacked boulders and reedy vegetation to help filter pure water that is piped in.
What is an axolotl?
The Ambystoma mexicanum, or axolotl, is a species of salamander that is not metamorphosed.
Like frogs and newts, salamanders are amphibians that are aquatic natives at first.
To become adults, salamanders typically go through a process known as metamorphosis, which is similar to a tadpole changing into a frog. Then, they’ll primarily reside on land. They undergo a variety of changes throughout metamorphosis in order to adapt to their new environment. For instance, they develop eyelids to replace their water-breathing gills and switch to air-breathing lungs.
Axolotls never go through this change. Rather, they remain in the water throughout their whole life cycle, retaining their frilly exterior gills and other juvenile characteristics. Neoteny, or paedomorphism, is the term for this. Even though axolotls resemble most tadpoles in appearance, Insofar as they can procreate, salamanders do mature into adulthood. They can breathe through their skin, but they also make some progress toward forming lungs.
Ambystoma tigrinum, the tiger salamander, is the closest relative of axolotls. Because the adults of Ambystoma salamanders live underground, they are collectively referred to as mole salamanders.
Why have axolotls evolved this way?
Senior Curator in Charge of Amphibians and Reptiles, speculates that the habitat and resources accessible to axolotls may have contributed to the evolution of their peculiar life cycle.
“Axolotls belong to a group of closely related salamanders that have a variety of lifestyles,” the speaker states. Some may choose to leave the water if things worsen on land, or they may choose to stay in the water if their home lake begins to dry up.
Over time, it made sense to preserve all of the traits that made axolotls aquatic if being in the water was better for their survival and they sexually developed before undergoing transformation.
Iodine added to water has been used in research to force axolotls to undergo metamorphosis. This causes hormones to be released. that initiate the process of land-based trait development. It’s not advised for axolotl owners to give their pets too much iodine though, as it can kill them and even if they do manage to metamorphose, they don’t live as long as naturally occurring paedomorphic axolotls.
Where do axolotls live?
The Mexican salamander, the axolotl’s alternate common name, reveals the game. Native to southern Mexico City, axolotls are found in wetlands and lakes, including Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco. However, in order to lessen floods, both lakes have been drained, with Lake Chaco practically gone. Only the canals of these three lakes, and maybe Chapultepec, are home to axolotls.
Axolotls are kept in captivity in huge numbers as well. They are frequently kept as pets and in zoos and labs.
Axolotls in the wild can be albinos, however they are usually a mottled brown-grey color. These seem pinkish-white due to the absence of brown pigments. This appealing coloring has been carefully cultivated for because it is in high demand in the pet trade.
What do axolotls eat and how long do they live for?
In many of their natural settings, axolotls are the dominant predators. They consume anything that they can bite their teeth into, such as small fish and mollusks, worms, bug larvae, and crustaceans.
In the wild, axolotls can live for ten to fifteen years, and after a year or so, they attain sexual maturity. They can grow to a length of 30 centimeters and weigh between 50 and 200 grams.