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The axolotl has nearly disappeared from its natural habitat (nature.com)
164 points by QAPereo 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments

But although there might be just a few hundred individuals left in the wild, tens of thousands can be found in home aquariums and research laboratories around the world. They are bred so widely in captivity that certain restaurants in Japan even serve them up deep-fried.

Doesn't that mean it's not actually extinction, but more like domestication?

There are worries about those in captivity, though:

> By the time that day comes, however, the wild axolotl may be gone. That worries Gardiner and Sandoval Guzmán because the animals that they study, like many lab animals, are highly inbred. Scientists use an ‘inbreeding coefficient’ to measure how small a gene pool is. Identical twins have a coefficient of 100%; totally unrelated individuals would score close to zero. A score above 12% indicates a population in which individuals are mostly breeding with their first cousins, and is considered a serious concern by ecologists and geneticists. The famously inbred and unhealthy Spanish Habsburg kings of the seventeenth century often had a coefficient somewhere above 20%. The average axolotl inbreeding coefficient is 35%.

There may be high numbers in captivity, but those will be genetically very similar.

You may be interested in learning more about genetic drift and effective population size, it should clear things up:


The article makes the point that the problem isn't that there are very few axolotls left, but that the non-wild ones are very inbred. This makes them prone to mass die-off from disease. They also accumulate genetic abnormalities that make them less useful to scientific research - notably into limb development and regeneration.

It just means they're headed for extinction in the wild, but that some populations are maintained in captivity. The term 'domestication' would not normally be used in this case, because it relates to the selection of improvement traits in some resource or behavior useful to humans.

Is there a reason they can't release them into a new habitat somewhere, even constructed specifically for the Axolotl?

Also if they are so prolifically inbred in captivity, couldn't they capture another specimen and start a new line either with a captive specimen or another wild specimen?

We're losing so much of our planet's biota, and at such a catastrophic pace (eg 58% decline in vertebrate abundance since 1970), that it's hard to know where to concentrate resources. This is an ongoing debate amongst ecologists. There's a fundamental quandary: the problem is planetary, a specieswise response is known to be inadequate, but it's the only one on offer.

The answer is to allow evolution to do its job and produce species capable of dealing with human dominance of the planet, while at the same time doing our best to transition to sustainable energy sources.

Science fiction is an entertainment, not an answer.

As for answers: answers to what? Topsoil loss (about 50 harvests left and counting)? Freshwater disappearance? Billions of sea-level-rise refugees with the inevitable resulting regional wars?

Unlimited so-called 'economic growth' has always been imaginary (it's not 'growth' in anything; it's entropy transfer as we shift from from complex and sustainable systems evolved over millennia to crude early-stage technological systems). It is not so glorious a work of the imagination it is worth destroying our real physical living home for.

The answer is quite simple really. Move offworld! :)

Physically, metaphorically, or biologically.

Evolution (mostly) works too slowly to keep up with human technological change.

That's not how evolution works at all. Evolution is not about mutations and genetic changes, it's about who is the fittest for their current environment. It can happen, very, very fast, like when new species are introduced in an environment. This can be observed in Australia with several species that were imported with human interactions. That counts as Evolution as well.

I think you're wrong, the theory of evolution has been suffering under the oversimplification that is 'survival of the fittest', that also led to e.g. Social Darwinism, which is dangerous and completely bogus.

Evolution Darwin already knew (and even more so we nowadays know) is a complex mechanism, that includes favoritism of certain traits of species over others, which steers a species' fitness for the environment, and several factors play various roles, e.g. epi-genetics.

Aren't you distorting the concept ? if no axolotl is fit to survive in the current wild, then that's it, no more axolotl. Evolution is not only filtering but also adapting, and it takes reproduction to do whatever (be it gene shuffling or else) to improve fitness.

The answer is acceptance.

Bacteria.. Insects... Rodents.

All of us dead.

Presumably they don't want to wreck the ecosystem of other species. I mean you can't exactly order up an empty habitat on Amazon, though I'm sure Alexa is now working furiously on the concept in case any of the Axiolotls have money.

Axolotls are fascinating animals. Here's an interesting YouTube video all about them: https://youtu.be/Eo50ctoOTWs

Bats are another noticeable species that is dying out. The earth is currently undergoing its sixth mass extinction event.


Bats are major pollinators... we are so cooked.

> The axolotl is on the brink of annihilation in the canals of Mexico City, its only natural habitat.

Their only natural habitat is city canals?

"The species originates from numerous lakes, such as Lake Xochimilco underlying Mexico City... As of 2010, wild axolotls were near extinction due to urbanization in Mexico City and consequent water pollution, as well as the introduction of invasive species such as tilapia and perch... Surveys in 1998, 2003 and 2008 found 6,000, 1,000 and 100 axolotls per square kilometer in its Lake Xochimilco habitat, respectively. A four-month-long search in 2013, however, turned up no surviving individuals in the wild. Just a month later, two wild ones were spotted in a network of canals leading from Xochimilco." [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolotl

Small cities too. Floodplain management is the farmer, so from 2010: 10.3368/er.28.3.257 (so, _Ecological Restoration_) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240812159_Creating_...

No idea how long the eggs can aestivate. Nice genetics/biocaching crossover there.

I hoped to see a nationload (MX, BR, something) of LEED living roof that included or adjoined estuary, I guess we know the jaguar (ocelot...) is less a hazard. It just has to be nicer to keep occupied canopy over most of the estuary (so birds don't run off with the cache in minutes) than it is to run ventilation or spend marginal time (¨) on cash crops.

http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/hope-for-the-axolotl is nice. Maybe every kid needs a little Nausicä dungeon, bugs and all.

Random thought, if we ate axolotl limbs, we could stop killing animals

Is this the inspiration for the "how to train a dragon" character? The resemblance is uncanny.

"How to Train Your Dragon" was directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois who were directors and character designers of "Lilo & Stitch".

So Toothless was inspired by Stitch and, probably, cats.

The Pokémon Mudkip was also inspired by the axolotl!

I always assumed it was based on the Mudskipper (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudskipper) but can see a bit of both in Mudkip :)

It looks a lot more like the Pokémon wooper.


Chemicals refers estrogen from birth control pills. It's a valid argument.

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