Axolotls are bizarre. What they look like, how they exist, where they come from and how and why they recently became so popular. Never heard of it? No worries, you will soon as these strange amphibians have captured the hearts of pet owners who in search of something unusual and simple to keep!
Axolotls are actually members of the salamander family and like all amphibians are born in the water and go through a metamorphosis. Starting as eggs, on to gilled tadpoles/larval stages, then to air breathing adults. But not the Axolotl!
These animals native to only two small lakes in the Mexican Valley take a short cut. Their metamorphosis takes an abrupt stop at the larval stage, keeping their dangling external gills and spending the rest of their adults’ days in the water, taking their oxygen from the water like a fish, rather than forming lungs and living on land on like salamanders.
These appendages are what attracts axolotl keepers as they look like they are from another planet! But there is more!
Axolotls are carnivores, and although they have small teeth and can bite, literally suck their prey down their throats like a vacuum. They are such aggressive eaters, they sometimes nip off their siblings’ feet, legs or worse! But no worries again! The Axolotl has unworldly regenerative powers, quickly growing back feet, limbs and tails, making them highly prized by scientists and in the medical community.
Sadly, over population in Mexico City has led to the depletion of the water levels in these lakes and axolotls have virtually disappeared from the wild. Now considered critically endangered there are few reports of living wild specimens in recent years.
Thankfully our fascination for them has kept the species from extinction. Axolotls can bear young at an early age, live for 10-20 years and have hundreds of babies at a time! The pet industry is steadily increasing their numbers and hopefully the species will continue in captivity where it can be studied further...
It remains to be seen WHAT can be learned from this amazing animal!
(picture from Wikipedia- Click image for more info)