Sunday 4 December 2016

Rare salamanders hatch at aquarium

Published 18/01/2011 | 17:46

An Axolotl salamander
An Axolotl salamander
Axolotl babies hatching out of their eggs at Portsmouth's Blue Reef Aquarium

A clutch of eggs from a rare species of salamander known as the Peter Pan of the aquatic world have been hatched at an aquarium.

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The tiny axolotl salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum) are regarded as the creatures that never grow up because they never reach their adult stage.

Now the tiny eggs have been hatched at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

The axolotls have recently been classified as critically endangered in their native Mexico where they are found only in the ancient water systems around Mexico City.

Lindsay Holloway, from Blue Reef, said: "Axolotls are actually the larval form of the Mexican salamander. Just like other salamanders, they start life as an egg which then develops into a tadpole with external gills and eventually legs.

"However, unlike other amphibians which go on to develop lungs and move out of the water on to the land, for some reason the axolotl chooses to remain in its juvenile form.

"It can live out the rest of its life in the water, growing to maturity and breeding while still in this juvenile phase."

Axolotls also have the ability to re-grow lost limbs and tails and can regenerate dead or damaged brain and heart cells.

The name axolotl means "water dog" and ancient beliefs state that they were created when the Aztec god Xolotl, fearing he was to be sacrificed, plunged into the water and was transformed into the bizarre creature.

The Aztecs not only used the axolotl as a source of food and medicine but also included them in their ceremonies. Native populations are severely threatened by pollution, farming and development.

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