Guardians of History: Protecting the Unique Beauty of the ‘Six-Horned Dinosaur’ from Extinction

 

Considered one of the world’s strangest animals with the ability to self-regenerate damaged tissues and organs, the axolotl is an icon of Mexico.

According to the correspondent of the Vietnam News agency in Mexico City, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has implemented a program to conserve the axolotl species in its natural habitat, which is endangered.

The six-horned dinosaur fish, scientifically known as Ambystoma mexicanum, is a fascinating creature worthy of scientific research. The reason lies in its peculiar appearance, regenerative capacity, and primarily in its phenomenon known as neoteny. Normally, amphibians undergo a metamorphosis from eggs to larvae (frog tadpoles are larvae). And finally, the adult form.

The axolotl, along with several other amphibians, remains in larval form throughout its life. This means it retains its gills and fins. It did not develop bulging eyes, eyelids, and other characteristics of adult salamanders. Growing much larger than a normal larval salamander. And axolotls can reproduce during this larval stage. Another term to describe this state is “perennibranchiate”. This animal is completely aquatic. Despite having rudimentary lungs, it primarily breathes through gills and skin.

The Institute of Biology at UNAM is currently working on promoting the reproduction of this amphibian in the canals of Mexico City.

Although there is decreasing evidence of the existence of complete populations, scientists believe that the Xochimilco district, famous for its system of canals and floating chinampa islands, still harbors this endemic species. Mostly.

According to local authorities, there are still 185 km of canals and 2,700 hectares of chinampa islands where Mexican salamanders inhabit.

The mayor of Xochimilco County, Carlos Acosta, said that the canals are cleaned “more than the streets” and emphasized that cleaning the water costs more than the effort of households collecting garbage.

The axolotl species, scientifically known as Ambystoma mexicanum, is often the subject of medical and biological research on its ability to regenerate damaged body parts.

However, many aspects of the lives of these amphibians are still unknown.

Norma Moreno Mendoza, an expert at the Institute of Biomedical Research at UNAM, said that to preserve this species, it is necessary to understand its conditions and reproductive organs. To date, only the morphological description of these parts has been provided, not the functional description.

According to the environmental management agency of Mexico City, in the wetlands of the Xochimilco municipality, there are around 100 axolotl specimens per square kilometer. However, a field census conducted by UNAM in 2019 recorded only 35 individuals/km2.

Rubén Rojas, an expert at the Institute of Biology at UNAM, said that the canals are affected by water pollution, urban development, and above all the invasion of exotic species, causing the number of axolotls to gradually decrease. At present, this species is endangered.

According to the chronicle of the scientist Alexander Von Humboldt, the axolotl lived much in pre-Hispanic Mexico.

After the Spanish invasion in 1521, this species was mainly distributed in 7 lacustrine areas of the Valley of Mexico, including Zumpango, Texcoco, Mexico, Xaltocan, Xochimilco, Chalco, and Mixquic.

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