Axolotl

Update of the post on 9/28/2013

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Profile

The axolotl is a weird salamander living only in a small area in Mexico. There are several things that set these creatures apart from other salamanders, and one of these is their wide range in color. Most of these animals are dark brown or black with speckles. They can even be greenish brown as shown in the picture below! They can also be albino, like the ones shown above are. I personally think the albino ones look better.

Another weird thing about these creatures is that they are neotenic. This means that there are certain characteristics of their larva that they keep as adults. There are two main features which they keep. These are their flattened tail for swimming and the gills on their head. Most salamanders have a rounded tail as adults and grow lungs and lose their gills. In fact, most axolotls do not undergo metamorphosis at all!

If their habitat dries up so they can no longer use their gills to breathe, they will metamorphose so they can survive. As you can see, the gills on the brown axolotls are brown, while the albino ones have pink gills. Surprisingly, the albino ones are not known to live in the wild. They have only been seen when they are bred in captivity!

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Size

Axolotls are probably larger than you would think. The adults are usually about nine inches (23 cm), though they can grow up to one foot (30 cm) long! This is much larger than most salamanders you would normally see. Females normally weigh about 4.6 ounces (130 g), while the males are a bit heavier, weighing 6.3 ounces (180 g).

Sometimes I compare the weight of animals to normal objects, and surprisingly the two weights I just gave are almost the same as two related items. The females weigh a little less than a baseball does, and the males a little less than a softball.

Diet and Hunting

Axolotls are not picky eaters. They are some of the top predators in their habitat, and because of that, almost any other animal will make good food. Their diet includes worms, tadpoles, insects, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and sometimes even other axolotls. Axolotls have three different ways of detecting their prey.The first one is not very interesting, that being

The first one is not very interesting, that being sight. The other two, on the other hand, are very interesting. First of all, these salamanders can detect electrical fields to find prey based on the slight difference in electrical charges. One other animal famous for this is sharks. The other way they find their prey is by detecting slight chemical changes to sense if prey is hiding nearby. In captivity, axolotls are fed earthworms, crickets, moths, and mice.

Habitat and Range

This section I always call “Habitat and Range”, but for this animal, their habitat is their range. You’ll see what I mean. The axolotl’s range is so small that it lives only in one lake in central Mexico, this being Lake Xochimilco.

They used to inhabit two lakes, but the other one was drained for drinking water and is no longer suitable habitat. These amphibians prefer deep waters with a lot of vegetation, so this narrows their range even further as not all of the lake fits this description.

Status and Threats

The axolotl is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Redlist. As I mentioned in one of the paragraphs above, axolotls are one of the top predators in their habitat. They used to be the top predator, but large fish species have been introduced. This means the axolotls now have predators, and they also have competition for food.

Previously, these animals were captured for use in the pet trade and for research, but they breed well in captivity, so they no longer have to deal with this threat as much. They were also hunted by locals for food, but since their population has declined, Mexico has established protective measures against this.

Currently, a permit is required to take an axolotl from its natural habitat. Another threat, one that many animals face, is pollution. Agricultural and industrial pollution have made Lake Xochimilco less habitable for these incredible creatures.

Reproduction and young

Mating season for these animals usually occurs between March and June. Male axolotls dance and nudge females to signal that they want to mate. The male then fertilizes the eggs inside the female’s body, and she lays them about one day later.

As the eggs are laid, they are covered with a coating of mucous that will protect the eggs while they develop enough to hatch. Females will lay anywhere from 100 to 400 eggs, which stick to the bottom of the lake and to each other. They usually lay closer to 200 eggs each.

The eggs develop for between 10 and 20 days, and once the young hatch, they are completely independent. By the time the next breeding season comes around, the young are ready to mate, even though they look the same as they did after hatching. The average age of these creatures in the wild is not known, but they usually live 5-6 years in captivity. In rare cases, they have been known to live up to ten years longer!

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

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Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Axolotl – ZeWrestler
  • Brown Axolotl – LoKiLeCh
  • Mystery animal – Public Domain
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