About Axolotls

What is an Axolotl?

Axolotl - Ambystoma mexicanum

Axolotls are amphibians.

They are neotenic salamanders, meaning they stay in the water for life, like that 40-something neighbor who refuses to leave his parents’ basement. Kept in normal conditions, they will never lose their gills to migrate up onto the land. They can be kept in an aquarium their entire lives, and make great family pets. They are similar to the "water dogs" that many fishermen may be familiar with using as bait, but they are actually a separate species. "Water dogs" eventually morph into salamanders, but axolotls don't.

Where Are They From?

A Faraway Land called Mexico

Originating in lakes of Mexico, most famously Lake Xochimilco, they shared territory with Aztecs, Toltecs, and Teotihuacanos. In present day, due to water pollution, habitat drainage, and introduction of invasive fish such as tilapia and carp, there are very few axolotls left in their natural environment, and they are dwindling to extinction.

But never fear, because axolotl enthusiasts like Aguamigos are doing all we can to keep up their numbers, and far more live in homes and labs today than remain in what is left of the lakes.

Why Are They Important?

Regeneration, Experimentation, & Conservation

Apart from being amazing pets, axolotls are important to humans in a variety of ways. First, they can regenerate body parts. This trait likely evolved as a counter to their cannibalistic nature. High population density and low food levels often lead them to turn on each other - a behavior we can observe even in captivity. Often legs and parts of tails are lost, and eventually regrow (although not always perfectly). This, of course, has great ramifications for the medical field. Research is currently underway that attempts to unlock the axolotls' secrets of regeneration in hopes of treating people who have lost limbs.

Like most amphibians, axolotls are very sensitive to environmental change. They are the proverbial canaries in the coal mines - if a habitat is affected negatively, they are the first to suffer. Worldwide, amphibians are declining due to increased chemicals in the environment, invasive species, human encroachment, land development, and climate change. Axolotls are near extinction in their native habitat, and thus serve as a warning. Unless we become more careful of how our actions affect the environment, more species will disappear as well.