What are some fun facts about axolotls
What does an axolotl look like?
At first glance, you really don't know where to classify the axolotl: it looks a bit like a newt, a bit like a tadpole that is too big.
The axolotl has a body like a newt or salamander, a laterally flattened tail, a large mouth and is about 20 to 25 centimeters long.
On the right and left of the neck there are gill appendages that look like small trees. In nature it is brown to gray in color and has dark spots.
But there are also bred animals that are completely white and in which the gills stand out bright red from the body.
There is a special reason for the strange appearance of the axolotl: it remains in the larval stage, i.e. the developmental stage of a tadpole, throughout its life.
Axolotl belong to the amphibians and there to the transverse-tooth newts.
The males grow larger than the females and also have thicker heads and tails.
Where do axolotls live?
Axolotl are only found in Lake Xochimilco and a few other small lakes west of Mexico City in Central America.
Unlike the other amphibians that live both in water and on land, axolotls spend their entire lives in freshwater.
What species are axolotls related to?
In addition to the axolotl, there are many other species in the cross-toothed newt family.
These include, for example, the spotted cross-tooth newt, the tiger cross-tooth newt, the mole cross-tooth newt or the long-toe cross-tooth newt.
How old do axolotls get?
Axolotls usually live to be ten to 15 years old, in extreme cases up to 25 years.
How does the axolotl live?
The axolotl is an animal that never grows up: In its development it remains at the stage of a permanent larva.
Unlike other amphibians, it does not undergo a metamorphosis, i.e. a transformation from a larva to an adult animal. This phenomenon is called neoteny.
This is because your thyroid doesn't make enough of the hormones necessary for conversion. In theory, however, the axolotl could evolve:
If the hormones of other newt species are added to the water or if the iodine content of the water is increased, the axolotl develops into an animal that no longer has gills and lives on the land. However, this occurs only very rarely in nature. For example, if the water temperature rises sharply and indicates that the water may soon dry out.
Then the adult axolotl can migrate overland and look for a new body of water. However, these adult forms of the axolotl do not live as long as the larval form.
The first animals were brought to Europe in 1863. They soon became interesting for science because they have a very unusual ability: If you lose a part of the body, for example because it is bitten off by an enemy, you can completely regenerate it in a few months without scars.
In the case of lizards, which can also do this, scars always remain visible and the newly formed body part is no longer as big as the old one.
Axolotls can even replace entire organs such as the heart or even parts of the brain if injured.
Researchers are now trying to find out how this works so that they might one day be able to help people who have lost body parts or who need new organs.
In the wild, axolotl are mostly active at dusk, sometimes also during the day.
Friends and enemies of the axolotl
All predatory animals in the water, such as predatory fish, can be dangerous to the axolotl.
How do axolotls reproduce?
Axolotl remain in their development in the larval stage, but become sexually mature at one to two years.
Mating season is usually in spring. Then the male waves fragrances at the female. If this is ready to mate, it follows the male. This releases a packet of seeds into the water.
The female ingests the semen and this is how the eggs in her body are fertilized.
The female then looks for a place that is suitable for laying eggs and lays 300 to 1100 eggs there. The first larvae can be seen in the eggs after just seven days.
After about ten days they are already moving in the eggs. The young axolotls hatch 14 to 21 days after oviposition. They are only seven millimeters long.
First the front legs develop, about two weeks later the rear legs. They are fully grown after about 20 months.
What do axolotl eat?
Axolotls eat all small invertebrates that swim around in the water. In the aquarium they are fed with frozen food or food tablets.
Keeping the axolotl
Axolotls are pretty easy to keep in an aquarium. Unlike other amphibians, they don't need any land because they only live in water.
However, the normal room temperature is too warm for them: Because they feel most comfortable at 17-18 ° C, the water usually has to be cooled.
Otherwise it can happen that the animals get sick. From time to time the water should even be cooled down to 10 ° C.
Axolotl that are kept in aquariums now come exclusively from offspring because they are strictly protected in nature.
Today there are many cultivated forms and color variants on the market. A basin measuring 80 x 40 x 40 centimeters is sufficient for three to four axolotls.
The bottom of the aquarium is littered with round gravel or sand and it is equipped with roots and stones as well as plants so that the animals have hiding places.
Care plan for axolotl
Of course, axolotls need regular food. In the summer, however, they sometimes take a break from eating, which can last about four weeks. The water in the aquarium must be changed regularly.
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