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Updated on July 5, 2015

Axolotl might be one of the rarest and cutest pet that every pet lover should have. However, axolotl which is also known as Mexican Salamander is a critically endangered creature. It belong to the Ambystoma mexicanum species. With a nickname “Mexican walking fish” this species always mistakenly referred as fish but actually it is an amphibians. Axolotl is like a brother or sister from another mother to tiger salamander because they are closely related where they share almost the same physical appearances and biological characteristics.

Axolotl in captivity CC:
Axolotl in captivity CC: | Source
Axolotl in captivity CC: Frank Ambrock
Axolotl in captivity CC: Frank Ambrock | Source
Variety of axolotl color CC: sillyaxolotl
Variety of axolotl color CC: sillyaxolotl | Source

Habitat, distribution and population

Axolotl is natively originated from Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in central Mexico. Axolotl commonly not distributed outside their habitat range in Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalcao, but the species congregate in places that still conducive for their survival. Although they are amphibian, axolotl permanently live in water. Deep-water lakes and water bodies that rich with aquatic vegetation is an ideal habitat for axolotl. It depends on aquatic vegetation to breed. It will attach its eggs on the vegetation which eventually help in its fertilization. Nowadays, axolotl has been breed all over the world for research or as pet animal.

There is limited data on the accurate number of axolotl’s population. The population of the species in wild is known to be very small as compared to its number in captivity gathered from all around the world. Axolotls are currently listed by CITES and IUCN as critically endangered creature. As shown in a study in 2013, there is no surviving individuals axolotl in the wild. Previous studies in 1998, 2003 and 2008 had respectively found 6000, 1000 and 100 axolotls per square kilometer in Lake Xochimilco. Despite its very small number in its natural habitat, wild axolotl still can be found in Mexican local markets as delicacies. This indicate that the local people still know where to find them.

Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco map CC BY-SA 3.0
Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco map CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source
Lake Xochimilco  CC: Ale*
Lake Xochimilco CC: Ale* | Source
Axolotl in the wild CC: Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times
Axolotl in the wild CC: Rodrigo Cruz for The New York Times | Source
Axolotl in the wild CC: Ronaldo Schemidt
Axolotl in the wild CC: Ronaldo Schemidt | Source
Axolotl in the wild CC: Tim Johnson, 2005
Axolotl in the wild CC: Tim Johnson, 2005 | Source

Physical appearance

An axolotyl will be sexually matured at age 18 to 24 months. The lenght of an adult axolotyl can reach 15cm to 45cm. Its physical charateristics almost resemble tiger salamander. With lideless eyes, they have wide heads. They have weirdly four short limbs which are actually uderdevelop with long thin fingers. The male can be identified by their cloacae lined with papillae , while the female have wider body.

Axolotyl have three pair of external gill originated from behind their heads used for respiration. Four external gill slits are hidden underneath the external gills. Although axolotls have teeth which are barely visible, its primary method consuming food is by suction.

A normal wild axolotl colour is brown with gold speckles and an olive undertone. However, axolotls can have different colour variants which caused by mutation of its four pigmentation genes. The four mutant colors are leucistic (pale pink with black eyes), albino (golden with gold eyes), axanthic (grey with black eyes) and melanoid (all black with no gold speckling or olive tone).

Axolotl body CC-SA: memuco
Axolotl body CC-SA: memuco | Source
Axolotl's skeleton CC: Peter W. Scott, 1995
Axolotl's skeleton CC: Peter W. Scott, 1995 | Source
Alternative axolotl anatomy and body CC: Sophie Corrigan
Alternative axolotl anatomy and body CC: Sophie Corrigan | Source

Food and digestion

Axolotl is a carnivorous amphibian. In its natural habitat axolotyl will consume variety of small creatures based on what is available in its surrounding including worms, insects, crustaceans and small fishes. Axolotls locate their food by smell and eat their prey by sucking them into its stomach. Commonly, in laboratory and when kept as pet, axolotyl will be feed with raw beef meat, beef liver, beef heart, pellets and alive earthworm. Certain types of food which have high content of fats and tendons are hard to be digest by axolotl’s stomach and can cause regurgitation among the axolotl.

Usually it will takes between 2-3 days for a axolotl to completely digest its food. The digestion process in axolotyl body is affected by the temperature of the water. The higher the temperature the faster the food to be digested and vise versa. If the water temperature fall below 10°C, axolotyl will be threatened by regurgitation. This is a natural safety mechanism in the axolotyl body to ovoid poisoning due to the toxins released by improperly digested food .

Feeding axolotl in captivity

Do you know....

Axolotl have the ability to regrow its entire limbs and regenerate parts of major organs which is relies on its immune systems. Axolotls also have some limited ability to alter their color to provide better camouflage by changing the relative size and thickness of their melanophores.

Axolotl eating pellet in captivity

Axolotl also known as?

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Why Axolotl population is endangered?

  1. Urbanization in Mexico City and consequent water pollution especially near Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco.
  2. Captured by local people to be sold at the market.
  3. Captured by for research due to its ability to regrow its limb.
  4. Traded all over the world as delicacies and pet animal.


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