Also known as the Mexican Walking Fish, Axolotls are a species of aquatic neotenic salamander that have incredible regenerative abilities. Their translucent, almost alien looking bodies hide some remarkable secrets that scientists are always trying to unlock.
While these incredible amphibians grow old, like peter pan they never really grow up. What do we mean by this? Well let’s take a look as we explore some incredible baby axolotl facts, as well as answer some FAQs about this amazing little animal.
5 Incredible Baby Axolotl Facts
Baby Axolotl Are Called Larve
Axolotls are laid in large clutches of eggs, and grow a lot before they hatch. Eggs clutches are laid in rocky places or areas of vegetation under water. Places where the eggs can clump and cling. Once they do make their way out of their egg, the baby axolotl are called ‘larvae‘.
While there are features that tell the male and female apart, there is no gender specific name (like bull or cow) to separate males and females.
Because of their similarities to salamanders (up to the point where salamanders metamorphose) they are sometimes known by the same collective nouns as a ‘congress‘ or a ‘band‘ of axolotl.
Axolotl Eggs Are Laid In Massive Clutches
The female axolotl’s eggs are usually fertilized within 12-24 hours after mating. They may hold off for a day or two until laying but will usually start as soon as the eggs are ready and they are in a suitable place. The eggs are laid over a day or two, which is no surprise as there are hundreds of them!
Females can lay up to 1000-1100 eggs! This is most common in the wild where their environment is not limited or enclosed. Not only that, but once they are finished laying one clutch, they are immediately ready to reproduce again. The typical breeding season lasts from late winter until late spring, but mostly during spring when the days are longer and the water temperature is greater.
In the best cases, most of the eggs – between 90-95% will survive to the hatching stage, as long as they can avoid predation. In captivity it is important to move a clutch of eggs out of an enclosure where adults are present. Otherwise the adults are known to eat the eggs, reducing the changes of any of the clutch surviving.
Also in captivity, depending on the size of their enclosure, clutches are best to be separated out into smaller batches of between 100-400 depending on the available enclosures. This provides a greater chance for more of the hatchlings to survive.
In the wild a clutch faces more pressure from predators, not just other axolotls.
Their eggs hatch after 2 weeks, and the juvenile larvae are almost immediately out there swimming and on the hunt for a meal.
Baby Axolotls Can Regrow Lost Limbs
Baby axolotls are remarkable creatures. So remarkable in fact, that they can completely regenerate a limb—including the bones, muscles, nerves, and skin—in as little as two weeks. It can take between 30 – 60 days though for more extensive repairs!
They have also been known to regenerate their spinal cord, heart, and even their brain. In some cases, they’ve even been able to regenerate their eyes!
Scientists are still studying axolotls in hopes of understanding how their regenerative abilities work. And while there is still much to learn, the potential applications of this knowledge are exciting.
Baby Axolotls Can Metamorphosize, But Usually They Don’t
Baby axolotls remain larvae for their whole lives. While they can metamorphosize with a bit of help into one further stage in life, they don’t need to. They can complete all the stages of their full lifecycle, including sexual maturity without moving beyond their larval form.
This phenomenon is due to a trait called neoteny, which in Zoology means ‘the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal.‘ Some other species of salamander, such as the olm, also exhibit full neoteny. Other types of amphibian exhibit environmental neoteny. Research shows that some factors such as temperature, water evaporation rate, and food availability can all pay a part in delaying or preventing metamorphosis in some species.
Metamorphosis Can Be Forced In Baby Axolotls
Axolotls maintain their gills and dorsal fins as they age, never going through the metamorphological transformation into mature salamanders. However metamorphosis can be forced in this animal if they are exposed to sufficient amounts of iodine.
Some live insects that they feed on contain iodine, but usually their diet is not enough to force the change. If it does happen though, they transform into a type of mole salamander, and will develop a fondness of digging and burrowing. They will also prefer to be out of water, rather than living in the water as they would as an axolotl.
Due to the toxicity of iodine, you should never try to force metamorphosis on a pet axolotl, as it will most often result in getting the dosage wrong and killing your pet.
Axolotls that do successfully transform into mature salamanders, do so at the expense of a much shorter life span. They usually only live for a few years, two or three at most after the transformation.
Baby Axolotl FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Axolotl?
Baby axolotls go through five stages during their lifecycle: two embryonic stages, the larval stage before they develop limbs, the juvenile stage where limbs develop, and the adult stage.
The first embryonic stage begins when the female axolotl lays her eggs in water. At this stage the eggs are about 2mm big in their layer of jelly. They will grow to around 11 mm during the second embryonic stage just before they hatch into baby axolotls after two to three weeks.
The young larval stage is the most important phase of a baby axolotl’s life because this is when they learn to swim and feed. They don’t have any limbs yet at this stage. Baby axolotls will stay in this stage for a few weeks.
The juvenile stage is when baby axolotls start to take their mature form. This is where the limbs start to come in. Like other salamanders, the front legs come in first and the back legs develop second. Interestingly, with baby frogs its the other way round. This stage lasts until the axolotl is about six months old.
The adult stage is when an axolotl becomes fully and sexually mature. Unlike other salamanders, they don’t need to metamorphize to reach their final form. They remain as larvae for their whole lives. Adult axolotls can live up to 20 years old in captivity, or 10-15 in the wild.
How Big Do Baby Axolotl Grow?
As adults, axolotls typically grow to be around 9-10 inches long, but have been known to reach as large as 18 inches or as small as 6 inches. They will also average between 2 – 8 ounces (56 – 225 grams) in weight.
It takes around 6 months for a baby axolotl to reach it’s full, adult size. In the egg, they start off around 2 mm in size, growing to 11 mm before hatching.
Males develop a cloaca that is swollen and lined with papillae, while females develop a wider body full of eggs. Males also develop a longer tail than females.
What Do Baby Axolotl Eat?
Baby axolotls are not picky eaters, as long as it’s not vegetation. They are purely carnivorous eaters. In the wild their range is limited, and so therefore so is the food that they have available to them. They will happily eat small fish, brine shrimp, worms, snails, insects and other baby amphibians in their tadpole stage.
In captivity, they are often fed bloodworms and earthworms, as well as other insects such as crickets, slugs and woodlice. This provides a more varied diet. It is usually advised as they mature, to move from live food to frozen bloodworms and specially formulated pellets.
If food is scarce, they have even been known to resort to cannibalism!
Where Do Baby Axolotl Live?
There are far more Axolotls now living in captivity and as pets than there are in the Wild. In fact there is only one place on Earth where they breed outside of captivity, and that is in Lake Xochimilco, and the surrounding canals and waterways in the south of Mexico City.
Previously they were found in more than one location, but habitat loss due to human activity reduced their wild range. They face many environmental pressures, particularly the threat of pollution on their fragile lake due to the threat of overcrowding and poverty with their surrounding human population. Thankfully, the species is revered in Mexico and conservation efforts are active to make sure the survival of the species.
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Axolotl?
Axolotls were once at the top of the food chain in their habitat, only having to watch out for the occasional stork or heron who would happily snack on them. But with the introduction of a non native species of carp and tilapia from Asia and Africa, the axolotl has to be wary of predation from these species now too.
They also have to compete with these fish for food, which puts pressure on their population. The biggest threat however, comes from humans, particularly the environmental impact of overcrowding, over consumption and pollution of their fragile lake habitat.
Baby axolotls, particularly those that have yet to hatch, are also vulnerable to predation from adult axolotls. These creatures will eat the eggs quite happily which is one reason that in captivity, adults are usually removed from an enclosure where a clutch has been laid to improve the mortality rate for that clutch.
If you do purchase an axolotl, it’s important to know that this may happen, so be prepared to take preventative steps to protect a clutch of eggs.
Where Does The Name Axolotl Come From?
Axolotl means water dog. It was named after Xolotl, a dog-headed Aztec God in mythology who transformed himself into a salamander to escape being sacrificed.