Zoo Animals

Mexican Axolotl

Mexican axolotl

Ambystoma mexicanum

At the Detroit Zoo

The Mexican axolotl is a freshwater salamander that spends its entire life underwater. This highly intelligent amphibian’s behavior can range among individuals from social to solitary and active to dormant. It can be seen at the award-winning National Amphibian Conservation Center – a leader in amphibian conservation and research – which houses a spectacular diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians.


The Mexican axolotl has a long tail, external gills, four legs and a large, flat head. Like its personality, the color of an axolotl depends on the individual. The most common colors are gold, albino and dark – ranging from black, brown or gray, accompanied by small spots all over the body. The Mexican axolotl skips the metamorphosis stage during the growth process and maintains its larval features – external gills and a tadpole-like dorsal fin. This phenomenon is called neoteny. Due to habitat destruction and invasive species, there are less than 100 Mexican axolotls left in the wild. The Detroit Zoological Society assists conservation of this species in Mexico through breeding consultation and research.

Fun Facts

  • In the wild, this species of freshwater salamander can only be found in Lake Xochimilco, Mexico City’s primary water source.

  • The Mexican axolotl can regenerate almost any lost body part faster than any other species. In fact, it is used in research to apply this ability to human nerve cells and organs.

  • The Aztecs saw the axolotl as the earthly servant of the dog-headed god, Xolotl.

  • Although the Mexican axolotl is primarily active at night, this amphibian’s behavior is so unpredictable that it cannot be classified as nocturnal.

  • Even though the exact number of Mexican axolotls in the wild remains unknown, the species has been thought to have gone extinct a number of times, only to be found again on surveys – maintaining the species’ Critically Endangered status.