Meet Alfredo Hernández Díaz, our new Axolotl EDGE Fellow

Alfredo (right) identifies a snake during the EDGE training course ©ZSL

Alfredo (right) identifies a snake during the EDGE training course ©ZSL

There are lots of beautiful and enigmatic places around the world, and most of them are subject of myths and legends. Can you imagine a piece of the ocean in the middle of the desert? Well, this is Alchichica, a beautiful crater lake, in central Mexico, with turquoise crystalline water and white coral like rocks emerging all around the edge. Some people believe that this lake was created by a meteor rock while others believe that it is connected to the ocean.
Even more interesting is the life that Alchichica hosts, as a very unique place, it hosts very unique creatures. The water from Alchichica represents a very harsh environment for life because of its highly saline and alkaline conditions.However, there are some creatures adapted to live there, most of them are algae, bacteria and very small invertebrates, but it also hosts a fish and a very unique amphibian: Taylor’s Salamander also called Axolotl in Mexico.

Taylor’s Salamander ©James Hanken

Taylor’s Salamander ©James Hanken

But why is the Axolotl from Alchichica so special? Well, as you may know, amphibians need water to survive but most of them are not adapted to saline water. Also, most amphibians experience metamorphosis which is a transformation from larva to adult in order to produce offspring. However, the Axolotl from Alchichica is a ‘neotenic’ species, it lives all its life as a larva but despite not experiencing metamorphosis it can produce offspring!

This Axolotl is endemic to Alchichica, it does not exist anywhere else because it is adapted to these very unique conditions. Sadly this very evolutionarily distinct species is also also critically endangered which is why EDGE have chosen it for an EDGE Fellowship project.

Even though the axolotl from Alchichica is a very unique species, the knowledge about it and the real threats that it is facing, is very poor. That is why I am going to start a project with the aim of filling the gaps on the knowledge of this species in order to find the best strategy to protect it and its habitat. With the support from the Zoological Society of London and Africam Safari Zoo from Mexico we will spend the next two years setting the basis for the conservation of this unique creature.  

Alchichica lake ©Alfredo Hernández Díaz

Alchichica lake ©Alfredo Hernández Díaz

 

For more information visit Taylor Salamander’s EDGE page an Alfredo’s community page

 

 

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