Axolotls

Introduction

Using these notes

These notes:

    • have been written to be consistent with community, industry and research and teaching based animal welfare legislation
    • apply to all schools in NSW, government and non-government
    • contain standards (in a red box at the beginning of each section) and guidelines. The standards must be met by schools, in accordance with the requirements of the Animal Research Authority. The guidelines are the desirable practices to achieve desirable animal welfare outcomes
    • reflect available scientific knowledge, current practice and community expectations.

Each section of these notes lists any approved activities, with their approved categories, that are applicable to axolotls. A complete list of the approved activities for all species can be found in Approved activities.

Category 4 and 5 activities may be undertaken by students only if prior written approval from the SACEC has been obtained using Application form 1.

Before a teacher demonstrates a category 5 activity to students, the teacher must have written certification from the SACEC. Certification is sought using Application form 4.

 

Varietal range differences

Axolotls are amphibians that are a type of salamander. The species is available in a variety of colors including nearly black, albino, golden and pied. Different strains differ in their ability to metamorphose into terrestrial salamanders, with many individuals unable to metamorphose.

Axolotls are suitable animals for primary schools, inner city schools and schools with space limitations as they live in small enclosures indoors and allow students to observe animal behaviour as well as teaching children the responsibilities involved in caring for an animal.

 

Physical characteristics

Size: 20–30cm
Age at adult size: 16 cm. Axolotls are neotenic, that is, they attain sexual maturity without first metamorphosing from their gilled laval stage to the terrestrial adult stage.
Weight at birth: Axolotls are oviparous or egg laying.
Gestation period: Eggs are laid one day after indirect fertilization. At room temperature, embryos will hatch in two to three weeks.
Clutch size: 300–1000 eggs.
Sexual maturation: From one year.
Lifespan: 12–15 years.

 

Behavioural characteristics

Axolotls are not particularly interesting animals to observe. They are quite inactive, often not moving for a number of hours and when they do move, they are very slow. Axolotls are typically lazier in colder conditions and more active if their water is warmer.

Axolotls are interesting in that they can regenerate their body parts. If an axolotl is attacked by a predator, they can release one of their appendages in order to escape. The appendage will then grow back after a short period of time.

Axolotls are solitary animals and can be active at any time of the day but they are generally more active during the night. If exposed to bright light axolotls will usually seek shade or cover from the light, sheltering under overhangs, rocks or vegetation. They communicate with each other mostly via visual cues or chemical cues when mating. Both chemical and visual cues are also used to perceive their surroundings and discover prey.

In their natural environment, axolotls are a predator and will eat molluscs, fish, insects and worms.  When different sized axolotls are kept together, cannibalism can be a problem if the animals are not fed appropriately.