Ambystoma mexicanum lives in Lake Xochimilco in the highlands of Mexico. Ordinarily they go through typical gilled aquatic larval stages, then metamorphosis, to transform into adult air-breathing land forms. However, under certain circumstances, the larvae do not metamorphose, retain their gills and aquatic habitat but become sexually mature. This sexually mature but morphologically immature larval stage with external gills is called an axolotl. This phenomenon is known as ‘neoteny’. The name was given by natives of Mexico who captured them for food. In Aztec, ‘axolotl’ means “serpent of water”.
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