Axolotl found in Mexico City lake after scientists feared it only survived in captivity
The amphibian is important in scientific research because of its ability to regenerate severed limbs
A rare, salamander-like amphibian has been spotted in its only known natural habitat, after researchers feared the creature had disappeared from the wild.
Mexican biologists have seen, but not caught, two axolotls during a second attempt to find them in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals of Mexico City.
The researchers took to the muddy waters of lake Xochimilco in small boats last year, and searched for weeks for the amphibian, but to no avail.
But biologist Armando Tovar Garza, of Mexico's National Autonomous University, said 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 behaviour of the axolotl makes them very difficult to capture,” he said.
“But we have had two sightings. That's important, because it tells us we still have a chance.”
Local residents and scientists of the Biology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico look for insects, which are food for the axolotls.
The axolotl has a slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile, and is known as the “water monster” or the “Mexican walking fish”
Growing up to a foot long, 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.
It is regarded as important 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 are not the best, because of interbreeding and other risks.
Releasing captive-bred axolotls into the wild is not an option as it could spread a fatal fungus and reduce their genetic diversity.
The “floating gardens” of earth piled on reed mats that the Aztecs built to grow crops where axolotols live in the wild, are now suffering from pollution, urban sprawl and invasive species.
Mr 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.
A young axolotl swims inside a plastic container at an experimental canal run by Mexico's National Autonomous University
The Mexican Academy of Sciences said a 1998 survey found an average of 6,000 axolotls per square kilometre, a figure that dropped to 1,000 in a 2003 study and 100 in 2008.
Additional reporting by PA
As anti-Semitic attacks rise, Grant Feller re-evaluates his identity
Savoury patisserie is a thing now
Meet the primary school where every day is National Poetry Day
Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again
...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought
Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood
Striker ignored Brendan Rodger's request to applaud audience
Green village to be bulldozed and mined for lignite in Germany's quest for non-nuclear fuel
35,000 walruses huddle for safety in Alaska as sea ice melts
47 per cent of London is green space: Is it time for our capital to become a national park?
Monarch butterfly: Single gene holds key to understanding 3,000 mile migration feat
Conjoined gray whale calves discovered in Mexican lagoon could be world's first ever documented find, experts say
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered...
- 3 35,000 walrus gather on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
- 4 Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
- 5 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Former Tory donor Arron Banks ups his Ukip donation to £1million following William Hague 'nobody' comment
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
- < Previous
- Next >
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a prog...
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare high quality opportunity for a...
£45 - £50 per day: Randstad Education Group: Job opportunities for SEN Teachin...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers re...