The axolotl (/ˈæksəlɒtəl/, from Classical Nahuatl: āxōlōtl [aː.ˈʃóː.loːtɬ] Listen) also known as a Mexican salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) or a Mexican walking fish, is a neotenic salamander, closely related to the tiger salamander. Although the axolotl is colloquially known as a "walking fish", it is not a fish, but an amphibian. The species originates from numerous lakes, such as Lake Xochimilco underlying Mexico City. Axolotls are unusual among amphibians in that they reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. Instead of developing lungs and taking to the land, adults remain aquatic and gilled.
Axolotls should not be confused with waterdogs, the larval stage of the closely related tiger salamanders (A. tigrinum and A. mavortium), which are widespread in much of North America and occasionally become neotenic. Neither should they be confused with mudpuppies (Necturus spp.), fully aquatic salamanders that are not closely related to the axolotl but bear a superficial resemblance.
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. They are currently listed by CITES as an endangered species and by IUCN as critically endangered in the wild, with a decreasing population. Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate limbs. Axolotls were also sold as food in Mexican markets and were a staple in the Aztec diet.
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. The city is currently working on conserving axolotls by building "axolotl shelters" and conserving remaining and potential habitats for the salamanders.