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Interesting facts about axolotls

  • Axolotls inhabit an area to the south east of Mexico City. In ancient times, they were eaten by the Aztecs.
  • Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) are gilled amphibians. They are unmetamorphosed larvae of the Mexican salamander.
  • Axolotls have a cartilaginous skeleton that, even in larger, older axolotls, doesn't become completely calcified. Their muscles are similar to those of fish. They have fine teeth on their upper and lower jaws that they use to grab their food and puncture it. It is thought that this helps their digestive enzymes to penetrate the food.
  • Axolotls respire (breath oxygen) through their cartilaginous gills, like fish, as well as cutaneously, that is, by diffusing oxygen that has dissolved in the water through their skin. Larger, older axolotls supplement their oxygen supply by filling their rudimentary lungs at the surface of the water.
  • Axolotls excrete only half of their nitrogenous wastes as weak urine. The rest is excreted through their gills.
  • Axolotls have no eyelids.

Reproduction and development

  • Axolotls are unusual because they are capable of reproduction in their larval state, a phenomenon called neotony. This is usually at twelve months of age.
  • Sexing axolotls may be difficult unless there is one of each gender to compare. In the male, the cloaca (the external opening of the intestine) is larger and more swollen around the margins. The male's head is also narrower, and its tail is longer than the female's.
  • Their natural breeding season is spring. The length of the day and the temperature of the water are thought to influence the start of breeding.
  • Fertilisation is internal.
  • They may release 300–1100 eggs per spawning. The eggs are gelatinous and stick to surfaces in the tank. They need good oxygen levels to develop, and their rate of development depends on the temperature.
  • Axolotls leave the egg with small feathery gills, a tail, and two outgrowths from the sides of their heads that allow them to attach to a substrate. As they grow, their gills increase in size and they develop legs.
  • Small axolotls, especially those less than 10 centimetres in size, often eat each other, but survivors may live for ten to twelve years.