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axolotl, Mexican axolotl, Mexican salamander, Mexican walking fish
Axolotls may exhibit a variety of colors, including gray, tan, brown, white, golden albino, white albino, and blue
20-30 cm (10-12 in.)
Up to 300 g (8 oz.)
Small aquatic creatures including worms, insects, crustaceans, and small fishes
200-1,000+ eggs in a single spawning
Axolotls may live more than 10 years
Native to both Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco (no longer in existance) of Mexico
Freshwater lakes, usually murky
One derivation of the name 'axolotl' references the Aztec god Xolotl, the god of games who could turn himself into an axolotl to escape his enemies.
An axolotl's skeleton is comprised mostly of cartilage. They exhibit neoteny, meaning they retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood.
They are aquatic, and although they posses rudimentary lungs, they breathe primarily through their gills and, to a lesser extent, their skin.
If axolotls spend prolonged periods of time in shallow water, their gills may be absorbed and they can begin using their lungs on land. However, if axolotls are in deep water for long, they will keep their gills for the remainder of their lives, or until they move to shallow water for a long period of time.
Axolotls have amazing healing abilities. Normal wound healing in animals occurs through the growth of scar tissue, and this means that most animals won't re-grow a lost limb. However, the axolotl is fully capable of complete limb re-growth.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Amphibians have porous skin and respond quickly to changes in the environment-the health of their populations can be an indicator of the health of the environment. Axolotls are important in medical and scientific research because of their unique regenerative qualities as well as their neotenic characteristics.
Beringer and Johnson. 1995.
Duellman and Trueb.
Biology of the Amphibians
. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986.
Halliday, Tim R. and Kraig Adler (eds.).
The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians
. New York: Facts on File, 1987.
Stebins and Cohen.
A Natural History of Amphibians
. 1995. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.