July 05, 2022
From Xochimilco to the world: the Mexican axolotl. An amphibian of mythological origin, part of the Mexican culture and identity. This animal possesses extraordinary characteristics and a charming smile that steals hearts. Nevertheless, this cute creature is critically endangered. Let’s get to know axolotl a little more…
According to the Aztec legend, the gods had to sacrifice themselves for the birth of the Fifth Sun. Xólotl, Quetzalcóatl twin, mutated into axolotl (from Nahuatl, “water monster') to get rid of the sacrifice. Turned into this creature, he threw himself into the lake of Xochimilco. Finally, he was captured and killed, giving rise to this peculiar Mexican amphibian.
Consequently, considered the incarnation of the god Xolotl, Aztecs used the axolotl as food, medicine, and an object of ritual ceremonies.
The Ambystoma mexicanum or axolotl is an amphibian native to the lakes of the Valley of Mexico; it currently survives in Xochimilco. This animal can regenerate its bones, muscles, internal organs, and brain. Undoubtedly, a mechanism that has always been in the crosshairs of researchers.
In 2006, the axolotl was added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as a critically endangered species due to:
In 2019, an assessment realized by the International Union for Conservation of Species found that only 50 to a thousand specimens remain in the wild. As a result, their populations are declining.
From pre-Hispanic times to the present, the axolotl has been the muse of various writers, poets, and visual artists, for example, Julio Cortázar, José Emilio Pacheco, Octavio Paz, and Diego Rivera.
The axolotl is present in Pokemon Mudkip and the brave Axi design; the main character of the video game AXOL, developed by a group of young Mexicans. It also gives life to the official emoji of Mexico City; even the name of Cervecería Monstruo de Agua got its name after this creature.
In 2018, February 1 was declared National Day of the Mexican Axolotl by the Senate of the Republic of Mexico thanks to a study in the journal Nature, which reveals the axolotl genome has 32 billion base pairs in its DNA; that is ten times more than the human genome.
In 2021, the Bank of Mexico (Banxico) launched a 50 pesos note with the axolotl as the protagonist. Indeed, the International Bank Note Society awarded it the Bank Note of the Year 2021.
In fact, La Gorda, the axolotl of the 50 pesos banknote, lives in Axolotitlán, a museum dedicated to disseminating preservation information about the species in Mexico City.
Now that we have made a brief tour of the history of the axolotl. Besides, understanding its value and meaning in Mexican popular culture and knowing its unique characteristics are of great importance to science. We can only recognize that the Mexican axolotl is an incredible animal we must take care of and protect.
What impressed you most about this amphibian?
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