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Lake Lerma Salamander

Ambystoma lermaense


The Lake Lerma salamander is a large species of lungless salamander, reaching almost a quarter of a metre long!

The Lake Lerma salamander is a variable species, with a population of both metamorphosing and neotenic individuals. Many of the individuals fully metamorphose to reach adult form, developing traits such as eyelids and functioning lungs.

However, the neotenic individuals never fully metamorphose and instead retain many of their larval characteristics, such as gills for breathing and fins. The fully metamorphosed adults leave the lake for the surrounding grassland, whereas the neotenic larval-form adults remain in the water.

This species belongs to the family Ambystomatidae, which is one of the most primitive lineages of salamanders. Ambystomatid salamanders diverged from all other salamanders over 150 million years ago, in the Late Jurassic. This is around the same time kangaroos and humans last shared a common ancestor!

This species is locally consumed as it is believed to have medicinal properties. It is also used in religious rituals locally. The main threat is the extremely high degree of pollution in rivers and pools where the species breeds. This has contributed to its decline. Urban expansion has also had a large impact. This species occurs within the three lagoons of the Ciénegas de Lerma Protected Area and is protected under the category “Special Protection” by the Government of Mexico.

  • Order: Caudata
  • Family: Ambystomatidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 250mm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5 (?)
ED Score: 17.52 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species found in Toluca city, Mexico, at 2,500-3,000 metres above sea level.

Habitat and Ecology

This species has individuals that are capable of reaching sexual maturity either in the metamorphosed or larval stage. Metamorphosed individuals spend most of their time on land in grassland habitat. They breed in streams, lakes, and moderately deep reservoirs.

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This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Industrial development Tourism Livestock Hunting Fishing Recreation Invasive species Invasive species Wastewater Industry Agriculture Garbage

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Download the survival blueprint for this species below. Each survival blueprint is compiled by an EDGE fellow working on the species with input from collaborators and stakeholders. The survival blueprint provides a status review (information on the distribution, protection status, habitat & ecology, threat and stakeholder analysis) and more information on the action programme listed here. 

Vision (30-50 years)

For the wetlands of Alto Lerma be free of water pollution, with an increased surface in which migratory birds can arrive over the winter months, and where axolotls can swim freely and interact with fish and crayfish.

Goal (5-10 years)

To assess the distribution and status of the populations of A. lermaense across its range, ensure the correct management and protection of the species, and promote the restoration and proper protection of the wetlands.


Monitoring the status of A. lermaense populations across its range Critical
Mitigate threats to wetland Critical
The National Protected Area management is fully effective to meet the needs of A. lermaense conservation Critical
Promote genetic exchange among A. lermaense populations High
A. lermaense action plans produced and endorsed High

Karla Pelz

  • Project name: Conservation Strategy for Lake Lerma Salamander (Ambystoma lermense)
  • Project site: Ciénegas del Alto Lerma, Mexico
  • Active: 2014 - 2017
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