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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

The Axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) may also be referred to as the Mexican salamander or the Mexican walking fish. The Axolotl is a member of the Ambystomatidae family and although its common name may suggest it is a fish, it is an amphibian.

Axolotl are found exclusively in Mexico. The species situates, near Mexico City, on the bottom of Xochimilco’s lakes. Unlike most salamanders, Axolotl keep its larval features throughout its entire life and very rarely ever emerge from water. A condition called neoteny causes the salamander to maintain its dorsal fin and feathery external gills into adulthood. Neoteny is a process that fails to allow the species to go through metamorphosis.

Axolotl grow to lengths between 6 and 18 inches. Typically the species is black or brown in coloration, though albino (pure white) varieties exist as well. The dorsal fin runs the length of the Axolotl’s body. Its wide head, with prominent lidless eyes are typical characteristics of the species.

Diets consist of worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, and small fish. Axolotl feed by using suction. The species smells for its food and swiftly snaps, using a vacuum force. Its prey is then sucked into its stomach and digested.

Axolotl are an extremely threatened species. The expansion of Mexico City and the draining of Lake Chalco have and will continue to further shrink the population. The introduction of larger fish and predatory birds also create a difficult environment for Axolotl to thrive.

Image Caption: The Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). Credit: LoKiLeCh/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, 1.0)

The Axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum