What they look like: Axolotls are evolutionarily distinct, retaining larval features in a permanently juvenile physical stage throughout their entire life. These members of the salamander family are often boldly patterned, with grooves along the sides of the body. They have a flattened body with a wide, equally flattened head, a large mouth and smooth skin with many glands. The tail is roundish and often bigger on the males.
- These amazing creatures have an incredible ability to regenerate digits and limbs that are often bitten off by either fish or other axolotls. This amazing ability has made them a focal species for human medicine and research.
- Almost extinct in the wild, oddly they are one of the most commonly bred amphibians in captivity.
- The name “axolotl” is thought to have originated from the Aztecs, derived from two words: atl, meaning “water”, and xolotl meaning “monster”.
- They live permanently in water, in the wetlands and canals associated with Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco, adjacent to Mexico City.
- Once eaten as a delicacy in Mexico City, they are now a protected species in Mexico and Critically Endangered in the wild.
What they eat: Invertebrates, small fish, other axolotls.
Habitat: High altitude lakes.
Where they live: Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco, central Mexico.
Threats: Land drainage and population growth of Mexico City. Poor water quality as a result of sewage disposal in the Xochimilco and Chalco lake complex.
ZSL's conservation work: As well as the ZSL's herpetology team being involved in the conservation action plan for the species, we also have two EDGE fellows out in the field in Mexico, working with closely related salamanders.