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Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Cute Amphibian of the Week: December 31, 2012

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), native to Mexico, is a salamander of variety; its skin can be either grey and dull or albino-like and fleshy.  This species is native to the ancient system of water channels and lakes in Mexico City. This salamander is quite particular–it requires deep water lakes (both natural and artificial canals) with abundant aquatic vegetation. The axolotl should be renamed “Hoover,” since they can suck food into their stomachs with vacuum force, including their own species, should the desire arise.

Their most interesting feature, however is their healing ability, which allows them to regrow whole limbs through the generation of stem cells from the remaining cells left of the limb, making this species virtually “indestructible.” The desiccation and pollution of the canal system, as well as the traditional consumption of the species by locals, is threatening the survival of the axolotl. The species is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

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