Axolotl, Endangered 'Water Monster,' Sighted In Mexico After Fears Of Disappearance

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Axolotl, Endangered 'Water Monster,' Sighted In Mexico After Fears Of Disappearance

Axolotl, Endangered 'Water Monster,' Sighted In Mexico After Fears Of Disappearance

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's salamander-like axolotl apparently hasn't disappeared from its only known natural habitat in Mexico City's few remaining lakes.

Researchers say they have sighted, but not caught, two of the slippery little creatures during a second effort to find them.

A weekslong effort last year by researchers in skiffs trying to net axolotls in the shallow, muddy waters of Xochimilco lake found none, raising fears that they might only now survive in captivity.

But biologist Armando Tovar Garza of Mexico's National Autonomous University said Friday that members of the team carrying out the search had seen two axolotls during the first three weeks of a second survey expected to conclude in April.

"We weren't able to capture them ... because the behavior of the axolotl makes them very difficult to capture," Tovar Garza said. "We haven't had any captures, but we have had two sightings. That's important, because it tells us we still have a chance."

The axolotl, admittedly ugly with a slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile, is known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish." It's only natural habitat is the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals — the "floating gardens" of earth piled on reed mats that the Aztecs built to grow crops but are now suffering from pollution, urban sprawl and invasive species.

The creature is import in scientific research because of its ability to regenerate severed limbs.

Some axolotls still survive in aquariums, water tanks and research labs, but experts said those conditions aren't the best, because of interbreeding and other risks. Releasing captive-bred axolotls into the wild could spread a fungus infection that is fatal to them and could reduce their genetic diversity. Tovar Garza said some small mutations, possibly the result of interbreeding, have already been seen.

Alarmed by the creature's falling numbers in recent years, researchers built axolotl "shelters" in Xochimilco to help them breed in the cleanest part of their remaining habitat.

Sacks of rocks and reedy plants act as filters around a selected area, and cleaner water is pumped in, to create better conditions. The shelters also include permeable cages and other devices intended to help protect axolotls from non-native carp and tilapia that were introduced to the lake system years ago and compete with axolotls for food.

Growing up to a foot long (30 centimeters), axolotls use four stubby legs to drag themselves along the bottom or thick tails to swim in Xochimilco's murky channels while feeding on aquatic insects, small fish and crustaceans. But the surrounding garden-islands have increasingly been converted to illicit shantytowns, with untreated sewage often running off into the water.

The Mexican Academy of Sciences said in a statement that a 1998 survey found an average of 6,000 axolotls per square kilometer, a figure that dropped to 1,000 in a 2003 study and 100 in a 2008 survey.
 

Sweetie

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Omigod. From 6000 to 100 in a decade? So so sad. I doubt the hardy couple seen by this research team will manage to kick-start a resurgence.
 

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I really hope that the researchers efforts will be successful in creating a sustainable population in their natural habitat.
 

secondriley

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Im glad a few were seen in their native habitats hopefully one day something will be done for these beautiful creatures.
 
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  • MuggleMiChu:
    Help! I got my first axolotl two days ago and they have stopped eating. They ate a few frozen blood worms the first day and haven’t eaten or been interested in food since. I feed them frozen blood worms and the tank is around 64 degrees. I do have a filter that moves sometimes and I noticed them swimming up to it, I have a new filter and a fan coming today or tomorrow. I leave the worms in the tank or a little bit before taking them out so I don’t know if they ate when I wasn’t looking. I know it takes a while for them to digest. Does anyone have any tips or knowledge they can share? The pet store I bought them from didn’t have gravel or sand in the tank so I’m not sure if theres an issue or if I’m just impatient. Thank you!
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  • HalfDrunkToast:
    @MuggleMiChu, how big they are? also for substrate, i would not do gravel at all I would either do sand or none at all!
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  • MuggleMiChu:
    They are about 2-3 inches long and I have them in a bare bottom tank
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  • HalfDrunkToast:
    @MuggleMiChu I would say try live black/blood worms untell they are full or just turn there head away ( that's what mine do) if that does not work try to get some live brine shrimp and see if they eat that. baby axolotl prefer live food over frozen food as the frozen food is too cold for them or they can't eat it in one go( that's if you do the blocks) mine eat chopped up frozen thawed shrimp. as for them not eating from what I have experienced with my second axolotl, I got her when she was about an inch long and she ate every day, when they start getting 3-4 inches long they will gradually slow down there eating. and if you really want to do substrate I would do sand because if they do ingest a little bit it won't hurt them.
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    Thank you so much for the information and advice! They are eating again, they ate a lot today. I think it might have been stress from the move or digesting old food, I also noticed they ate some of the food left in the tank (I removed the rest). I’m going to keep the tank bare bottom.
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    @MuggleMiChu,your so welcome im glad to be of help! and I'm glad that they are eating as well!
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