Cactus Gallery LA
Axolotl, El complemento de el Agua by artist Gabriela Zapata
Acrylic on Wood, 9” × 11"
The axolotl is a neotenic salamander, closely related to the tiger salamander. Although the axolotl is colloquially known as a "walking fish", it is not a fish, but an amphibian. The species originates from numerous lakes, such as Lake Xochimilco underlying Mexico City and Lake Chalco in central Mexico. Lake Chalco was artificially drained and no longer exists, while Lake Xochimilco remains a remnant of its former self, existing mainly as canals.
Axolotls are unusual among amphibians in that they reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. Instead of developing lungs and taking to the land, adults remain aquatic and gilled.
As of 2010, wild axolotls were near extinction due to urbanization in Mexico City and consequent water pollution, as well as the introduction of invasive species such as tilapia and perch, who eat the axolotls' young as their primary source of food!
They are currently listed by CITES as an endangered species and by IUCN as critically endangered in the wild, with a decreasing population. Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate limbs.
Mexico City is currently working on conserving axolotls by building "axolotl shelters" and conserving remaining and potential habitats for the salamanders.