The Fascinating Axolotl: A Deep Dive into Its Nature

You’re at the zoo on a field trip, and your group is in the reptile and amphibian building, when one of the creatures catches your eye. “What on earth is that thing?” you might ask. After reading the information card, you see that the little pink larval salamander is called an axolotl.

The axolotl of Mexico is an interesting amphibian with many unique traits. The axolotl, otherwise known as the walking fish or Ambystoma Mexicanum, is, contrary to its nickname, an amphibian, that lives in the canals of Xochimilco, in Mexico. Its name, axolotl, comes from the Aztec language, atl, meaning water, and xolotl, meaning dog, or referring to the god Xolotl. It feeds on worms, insects, and mollusks, and used to be the top of its food chain until larger fish and birds were introduced in its environment. The average axolotl lives about 15 years in captivity, and around 12 in the wild.

Axolotls look interesting and have many offspring. The axolotl is found in many different colors, which are pinkish white, dark brown, and albino yellow. The feathery things coming from its head are actually gills and aren’t just for show. It takes an expert to identify the gender of an axolotl, because they look extremely similar, so if you want one for a pet, don’t get two unless you want to risk having three hundred to one thousand one hundred baby axolotls to take care of! Axolotls mate in spring, so if you do have two axolotls and don’t want more, maybe you should separate them then. You don’t have to worry if your axolotl is less than a year old, though, because axolotls don’t reach maturity until 12 months after hatching.

Even if they are mature by 12 months, they sure don’t look the part! That’s one of the many interesting things about them! The reason they don’t look like full grown salamanders by then is because of a trait called neoteny. Neoteny prevents them from going through metamorphosis, but still lets them become mature. You can force them to metamorphose by treating them with hormones, or sometimes in odd cases, they just do on their own! What else can you do with an axolotl? Scientific experiments, apparently! Scientists have done many an experiment on these little guys, because of their ability to grow back limbs! Scientists have even transplanted heads of other axolotls onto other axolotls! Many axolotls are kept as pets and bred in captivity, but in the wild they are critically endangered!

This salamander is one interesting little creature! It would be a shame if axolotls went extinct, so we must act now! There isn’t a fund for axolotl conservation - yet, - which means it’s up to us to help the axolotl! In conclusion, the axolotl salamander is unique, interesting, and needs some of your help!

11 February 2020
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