A Mexican salamander: its day may come. A Mexican salamander: its day may come.

Day of the salamander proposed by senator

The declaration would help conserve the endangered Mexican axolotl

A senator has proposed that February 1 be declared the Day of the Axolotl in order to promote conservation of the species of salamander that is native to Mexico.

Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum), also known as Mexican salamanders, have become commonplace pets and for years have fascinated all and sundry with their ability to regenerate tails and limbs.

Despite their domestic popularity, in their natural habitat the axolotls have been considered critically endangered since 2010. Population counts conducted over the years have shown a sharp drop in their numbers in the wild: there were 6,000 specimens per square kilometer in 1998, but only 35 in 2014.

Senator Silvia Guadalupe Garza Galván proposed that the National Day of the Mexican Axolotl be February 1, the date this year on which the scientific journal Nature published a genomic study of the salamander’s regenerative abilities.

Garza explained that axolotls once thrived in the Mexico City canals of Xochimilco, but tourist activity in the area, along with illegal sewer discharges and farming and fishing activities, have had a negative impact on the ecosystem.

The introduction of invasive fish species such as tilapia and perch is another factor that has contributed to the axolotls’ reduced numbers.

“By declaring the national day we would be acknowledging the biological and cultural worth of the Mexican axolotls’ survival,” said Garza.

The senator added that axolotls have been a part of Mexican culture for years, serving as a delicacy on Aztec and contemporary tables and earning mention in the works of Mexican writers.

Today, their scientific study could one day lead to a better understanding of their regenerative capabilities and, further along, dramatically improve human health.

Source: El Universal (sp), Nature (en)

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