Mexico's Missing 'Water Monster' Resurfaces

Scientists had feared for axolotls' survival, but spot 2 in the wild

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 24, 2014 7:30 AM CST

(Newser) – So they're not extinct, but don't get out the confetti just yet: Mexican researchers have finally managed to find a few axolotls—slimy "water monsters" akin to salamanders—in their natural habitat around Mexico City. But their numbers aren't exactly overwhelming: "We haven't had any captures, but we have had two sightings. That's important, because it tells us we still have a chance," says researcher Armando Tovar Garza, per the AP. Why do the creatures fascinate researchers? For one thing, they can regrow missing limbs.

The axolotl's habitat in the Xochimilco lakes and canals has suffered from pollution, and though the creatures do live in captivity, those animals can't be released due to fears of infection. So researchers have tried to help the little water monsters breed. Specially installed "shelters," surrounded by bags of rocks and plants, are pumped full of clean water; they also feature cages to keep out food competitors. But, as the Independent adds, their numbers have nevertheless dwindled from about 3,700 per square mile in 1998 to the aforementioned pair of sightings.

In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 photo, Biologist Armando Tovar Garza from Mexico's National Autonomous University holds a young axolotl in his hand at an experimental canal.
In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 photo, Biologist Armando Tovar Garza from Mexico's National Autonomous University holds a young axolotl in his hand at an experimental canal.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 photo, a young axolotl swims inside a plastic container at an experimental canal run in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals in Mexico City.
In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 photo, a young axolotl swims inside a plastic container at an experimental canal run in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals in Mexico City.   (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
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