An Introduction To Axolotls
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An Introduction To Axolotls
Care And Feeding
The Axolotl FAQ
Axolotl Or Salamander?
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Last updated February 22, 1999

These are the questions that I hear the most often from people who've never seen or heard of axolotls before. There's a lot more information on the care and feeding page about keeping an axolotl for a pet. Although these pages are pretty text-heavy, I have spiced things up with some goodies that you'll find in appropriate sections.

What the heck is that thing?

An axolotl, of course! More specifically, it's Ambystoma mexicanum, a salamander unique to some areas of Mexico. My axolotl is white, with fluffy, red gills. Most axolotls are a darkish gray, though, and some have brown and white splotches.

What kind of name is axolotl?

Nahuatl, the language of the ancient Aztecs. Literally, it means "water dog," although it can apparently be translated a number of ways. "Water sprite" and "water player" are just a couple. The axolotl takes its name from Xolotl, the rather diverse Aztec god of games, monstrosities, and the dead and resurrected.

What are those things on his head?

His gills. Unlike most salamanders, the axolotl never leaves the water... as long as he has gills, at least (more on that later). Axolotls are said to be neotenous; they can live and breed in what is really a larval, more or less undeveloped form. Many salamanders have gills when they are very young, but as they mature and develop lungs, their gills shrink and eventually disappear. Axolotls are thought to have evolved from Ambystoma tigrinum, the tiger salamander- pretty convincing when you consider that larval tiger salamanders look so much like baby axolotls that it's nearly impossible to tell them apart!

Thees Chreestmas I would like to have large pectoral muscles!This is a picture of a larval tiger salamander. Just pretend it's a baby axolotl; they're virtually the same thing.

Got my mojo workin'!Another creature that retains its gills throughout its life is the mudpuppy. For some reason, people often mistake young tiger salamanders for mudpuppies. In fact I could not convince the people at my local pet store that the fully developed tiger salamanders I was buying from them were NOT mudpuppies!

How long do they live?

The average lifespan seems to be ten to fifteen years, although there was at least one that reportedly lived twenty-five years in a French laboratory. If the latter is true, I'd tend to think that the average age is a bit higher- I mean, how many people live to be a hundred forty?

  Chia chia chia!Continue to Care and Feeding

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