The axolotl (ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl) is a salamander, which, unlike most, exhibits the trait of neoteny. Because they are neotenous, axolotls keep their tail in a fin-like state and rarely leave the water. They also keep their feathery gills for life. Occasionally, but very, rarely, the axolotl will fully mature and live out of the water. Biologists have noticed that axolotls are able to regrow injured limbs, and even parts of their brain. They grow from four to eight inches long (10 to 20 cm.), sometimes larger but rarely over twelve inches (30 cm.). Axolotls weigh up to eight ounces (227 g) or half of a pound. They eat worms, insects, fish, and other small animals. In the wild they live up to fifteen years and perhaps longer in captivity. The name axolotl comes from the name of an Aztec god xolotl, meaning water dog. Living only in the small Xochimilco (SO-chee-MILL-koh) lake group, the axolotl is an endangered species and is more common in captivity than in the wild. Once axolotls were eaten as a delicacy in Mexico; however, legal protection has reduced this practice. Although they are legally protected, the axolotl population still suffers from larger fish that have been introduced into the lake. According to one count, the population of wild axolotls may be only around one thousand. Contamination, consumption, and captivity still continue to reduce wild population even further.
Here’s the picture of next week’s animal.
- Smithsonian Handbooks Reptiles and Amphibians. Mark O’Shea and Tim Halliday, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6009-3
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Axolotl – Wikipedia user:LoKiLeCh
- Mystery animal – public domain
Update: 2/17/14 – added info about regeneration