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Shreveport Aquarium Welcomes Critically Endangered Charismatic Salamander

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Shreveport Aquarium will have some new quirky creatures soon. On Saturday, Sept. 10, the aquarium will unveil its new ‘Rainforest Way’ Gallery. Rainforests are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and the most at risk. To help educate visitors about threats facing our rainforests today the Shreveport Aquarium’s new gallery will feature the charismatic, critically endangered Axolotl.

Axolotls are fascinating animals with incredible regenerative abilities. These adorable amphibians are pop culture icons and becoming very popular aquarium inhabitants across the globe. They can be found in captivity just about everywhere now. In the wild, however, Axolotls are only found in the highlands of Central Mexico, and their numbers are dwindling rapidly due to habitat loss, pollution and other factors. There are now more axolotls in captivity than there are in the natural world.

“Our new gallery will allow visitors to come face to face with these smiling salamanders. In this immersive experience, guests will be able to explore and learn more about Axolotls and other rainforest inhabitants making lasting connections to our aquatic world,” said Jon Whitehead, Director of Development. “At the Shreveport Aquarium the health and welfare of our animals is the top priority, the axolotls in this gallery came from populations under human care at a regional AZA Accredited Institution.”

What is an axolotl?
The Axolotl is an aquatic salamander often called a Mexican walking fish, with feathery gills, an adorable smile and some other biological oddities that have given this creature global recognition.

Unusual characteristics
  • Unlike most amphibians, the axolotl does not typically undergo a metamorphosis to transition to life on land, so they spend their entire lives in the water.

  • Possibly the most distinguishing physical feature of the Axolotl is the external gills that give them their unique look. The gills are located on the head on protruding crown-like appendages and are covered in tiny gill filaments.

  • Unlike other salamanders, Axolotls lack eyelids, so their eyes remain open all the time. Since they tend to live in dark areas with little light, they have very poor eyesight and use their other sense to find food.

  • Axolotls have amazing regenerative abilities. Not only can they fully replace a lost tail or limb without leaving a scar, but axolotls can even replace parts of their brain. This ability is something that scientists believe could hold great biological value in the study of regenerative medicine, making these unusual salamanders among the most studied freshwater creatures in the world.

How did the axolotl get its name
The axolotl is named for the mythological Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl. To save himself from being sacrificed, Xolotl is said to have disguised himself as a salamander.

Population decline Axolotls are only found in a connected series of freshwater lakes in the Central Mexican Valley. For several centuries now, these lakes have been slowly drained for flood control measures and unfortunately today, only remnants of the lakes remain. This loss of habitat combined with water pollution and the introduction of some invasive species have contributed to a massive decline in their numbers. Axolotls are now listed on the IUCN conservation index as critically endangered in the wild. This means that there is a very real threat of them going extinct in the wild in our lifetime. It is estimated that there are less than 1,000 left, outside of those living in captivity.

Shreveport Aquarium’s mission is to create thoughtful, impactful and sometimes unexpected interactions and experiences that inspire the protection of the aquatic world both close to home and far away. The aquarium is working to help preserve and showcase these amazing animals. Their exhibit will help raise awareness of their conservation status in the wild.

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