Endangered Species of the Week: Axolotl
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The axolotl has the ability to re-grow whole limbs!
While the bizarre axolotl may look like it comes from another planet, it is actually a type of salamander. This fascinating amphibian exhibits a trait known as neoteny, where, instead of transforming from the juvenile form to an adult as in other species of amphibian, it retains some of its juvenile features. The most obvious of these is the branch-like gills projecting from the neck on each side of the head. These allow the axolotl to remain permanently in water. However, if conditions become unfavourable, the axolotl can metamorphose into a fully-adult salamander and leave its aquatic habitat, using lungs to breathe instead. The axolotl is active during the day, feeding on algae when young and preying on aquatic invertebrates as an adult. It is only found in Mexico.
Although there are large numbers of the axolotl in captivity, its numbers in the wild are low, with collection for international trade and for food having threatened this species in the past. Currently, the most significant threat to wild populations is the level of pollution in its native lakes and canal systems. The axolotl is now protected in Mexico and work is underway to restore the axolotl’s habitat.
Find out more about the axolotl from EDGE.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author