Axolotl

Latin Name
Ambystoma mexicanum

Class
Amphibians

Order
Caudata

Description

Salamanders with collars of feathery gills, axolotls have finned tails they employ in swimming. They range in color from dark to albino. Axolotls can reach about one foot in length. Females can be distinguished by bodies rounder than males.


 

Range

Historically limited to just two high-altitude Mexican lakes—Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco—they currently only exist in the latter, as Chalco is no longer existent.


Status

This species is almost extinct in its native habitat, as Lake Chalco has been drained and Lake Xochimilco is shrinking. The introduction of predatory fish is speeding this decline.


Habitat

Axolotls live in freshwater lakes.


Niche

Solitary amphibians, axolotls are active throughout the day and night. As they sit atop the food chain in their natural habitats, they eat anything they catch, from fish to arthropods. (Introduced fish prey on axolotl.)


Life History

Adult axolotls retain some larval characteristics, such as those feathery, external gills and their tails. They have an elaborate courtship ritual involving nudging and "dancing" in a circular motion before the male deposits sperm which the female collects. Individual eggs are attached to substrates and hatch two weeks later, producing self-sufficient offspring.


Special Adaptations

Solitary axolotls need not communicate throughout most of the year, though when mating they use visual and chemical cues. They can also detect electrical fields.



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ARKive video - Axolotl - overviewARKive image - Axolotl - showing branch-like gillsARKive video - Axolotl in pond habitat

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