The Mexican axolotl is a unique type of salamander that spends its entire life underwater. Unlike other salamander species, the axolotl salamander does not undergo metamorphosis and instead exhibits neoteny, a rare trait that allows the salamander to retain many of its larval features throughout its life. This species is found exclusively in the water, in the wetlands and canals of Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco near Mexico City. Axolotls can survive up to 12 years and feed primarily on mollusks, worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, and some fish. Axolotls are known to have a fast regeneration rate which allow them to regrow limbs and organs. In addition, axolotls possess lungs and also have the ability to breathe through external gills making them a pretty unique species! Although an accurate population size is unknown, the wild population is known to be very small and are believed to be declining. This species is currently listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Axolotl populations are believed to be suffering primarily due to land drainage and the growing population of Mexico City. These factors are contributing to the desiccation, pollution and degradation of the Axolotl’s habitat. In order to prevent this species from becoming extinct, protection of the axolotl’s habitat in the Xochimilco and Chalco canals and wetlands is an urgent priority. Currently, steps focusing on raising the profile of Lake Xochimilco are being taking through habitat restoration and bioremediation as well as through conservation education.
Posted by: Katie Kossack (Group B)