Facts, Information and History of Axolotls!
Axolotls, also known as Ajolotes (ah-hoh-loh-teh), are a member of the salamander family very closely related to the tiger salamander. Unlike tiger salamanders, however, axolotls are neotenic, meaning that they retain some of their juvenile characteristics into adulthood and for their entire life. For example, while axolotls do develop legs and form lungs, axolotls also keep their external gills and dorsal fin which runs down their back and to the tip of their tail. Despite their legs and lungs, axolotls are purely aquatic animals that will remain in water for their whole life.
Wild axolotls have only been found to be native to one lake system in the world. Mexico's five great lakes are the only known places where axolotls have evolved in the wild, with Lake Xochimilco (So-chee-mill-koh) being their only remaining natural habitat. Axolotls have been around as far back as the 13th century where they were discovered by the Aztecs when they settled in the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs gave axolotls their name after the god Xolotl, who was their god of lightning and fire. Axolotls thrived in Lake Xochimilco for hundreds of years until invasive species of fish were introduced to their habitat. These invasive species, along with pollution and residential expansion, have driven axolotls to near extinction. Sadly, a 2019 assessment has estimated there to be between 50-1000 remaining wild axolotls.
Luckily, it's not all bad news for these cute little creatures. Many people today find them interesting, but this was also the case in 1864 when the first axolotls were brought to Paris to be bred as pets. In fact, due to selective breeding while in captivity, axolotls are no longer only their original brownish color, but rather a wide range of colors. Colors like black, pink, green, copper, and many other variations of these colors. It is not only pet owners who are interested in axolotls, but biologists as well. Axolotls are commonly researched by biologists because they have the ability to regenerate their limbs, heart, brain and spinal cord without scarring.
While axolotls may no longer thrive as they once did in the wild, their domestic population is continuing to grow. It is thanks to the efforts and interest of conservationists, scientists, researchers, breeders an owners that axolotls have avoided complete extinction and are still around to be loved today.