The Axolotl and their Reintroduction into the Wild

Not many people have ever heard of an Axolotl yet they are one of the most studied creatures in the United States. They have unique regenerative capabilities that are unparalleled when compared to most amphibians. Although widely studied, little is known about these creatures due to their limited geographical expanse. Well to begin, their structure is similar to that of tiger salamander. This is due in part to the fact that Axolotls are the “neotonic” version of the tiger salamander. Neotonic meaning that they never lost their gills and evolved into a land walking amphibian. They remain completely submerged in water while occasionally coming up for a gulp of air a few times a day. One of the most distinguishable features of the Axolotl is its exterior gills which protrude from the sides of its head. These gills are flickered several times a minute to create Oxygen that allows them to breath without having to come up for air. In the wild they are only found in Lake Xochimilco and Chalco water channels which are located in Mexico. Due to over fishing, draining of their habitat and poor water conditions, the population of wild axolotls have greatly diminished over the past few decades. An article posted on IFLscience.com quoted “Luis Zambrano of the National Autonomous University in Mexico recently completed a three-month-long survey around Lake Xochimilco and did not find any of the animals. In 1998, a similar survey netted about 6,000 individuals per square kilometer, but the number plummeted to 1,000 in 2003 and only 100 in 2008. The axolotls have been labeled as critically endangered since 2006, due to the small population size and declining trend.” Although they thrive in captivity they have almost been pronounced extinct in the wild. It has been noted that they have been spotted on the Mexican meet market as delicacy. Many conservation groups have debated as to whether or not the re-introduction of lab bred Axolotl’s would be a positive situation for both the Axolotl and the ecosystem.. I have had the pleasure of owning two Axolotls (Miss Roo and Pascall) for the past year. These are very interesting creatures with distinct personalities. They can learn to recognize the hand that feeds them. In the morning time when I get ready for work, it is their customary instinct to come out of hiding and observe me, ironically.

It is, in my opinion very important that these creatures be re-introduced into the wild via a series of closely monitored experiments. The three main factors that contribute to the wellbeing of these creatures are water quality, temperature and an abundance of insects and worms to feast upon. It is important that the water temperatures raise no higher than 74 degrees a year or else the axolotl’s are prone to sickness, increased appetite and fatigue. It would be ideal to find conditions similar to that of Lake Xochimilco and release a colony of captive bred axolotls. Some say that this will not work due to the fact that the lab raised axolotls do not contain the instincts necessary for them to survive in an environment where they may be prone to predators. It is my goal to educate people more about these creatures and perhaps one day be able to contribute to the research accumlated for the purpose of axie conservation.

Winter, L. (2014, January 30). Axolotl feared extinct in the wild. Retrieved January 28, 2015, from http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/axolotl-feared-extinct-wild

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