Animal of the Week with Justin C: Axolotl (Mexican walking fish)

Animal of the Week with Justin C: Axolotl (Mexican walking fish)

Justin Carl Claudio, Staff Writer

Cute or creepy? Axolotls are a type of salamander which is an amphibian and sometimes known as “Mexican walking fish” but they are NOT fish. Native only to Lake Xochimilco in the Valley of Mexico, as well as the canals and waterways of Mexico City, axolotls are critically endangered because of human development, waste water disposal, and loss of habitat due to droughts. There are 50 to 1,000 axolotls left in the wild. But today, the population of axolotls is actually increasing, according to biologists, because they’re breeding the axolotls in the lab to preserve the species. 

Axolotls get their namesake from “Xolotl”. The Aztec god of fire and lightning. Axolotls were descended and evolved from tiger salamanders that existed only 10,000 years ago and inhabited central Mexico. Their diet includes worms, insects, small fish, and just about anything else that can fit inside their mouth and swallow whole, including other salamanders. Axolotls can live up to between 10 to 15 years and also grow up to 10 inches (30 cm). When the female axolotls become pregnant, they will release 400-1,000 eggs during spawning.   

One of the most striking visual features of the Axolotl is their color: variations include white albino, leucistic, piebald, golden albino, copper, black melanoid, lavender, and firefly. Axolotls have so many different colors, because they have three different kinds of pigment cells or chromatophores that help them camouflage. Their ability to blend in with their environment is also aided by their ability to change the colors of their gills and skins. And they can actually change the color of their skins and gills.    

Last but not least, Axolotl possesses the rare ability to regrow limbs. Should an Axolotl lose a foot or an arm, their bodies will regrow the limb in 3 weeks. Scientists are studying this unique feature as the mechanism may hold enormous promise as a model for the study of regenerative medicine.


Fun Facts

  • If they lose a part of their body, they can regenerate their body from being injured themselves.
  • Axolotls are critically endangered.
  • The feathery looking branches that extend from either side of its head are its gills.
  • They are incredible healers which simply regenerate their injured part.