One of the world’s rarest amphibians is being bred by dedicated hobbyists and is now available in the US pet trade. Anderson’s salamander, Ambystoma andersoni, which was only formally described in 1984, is limited in range to a single high altitude (6,000+ feet above sea level) lake and stream in south-central Mexico (Laguna de Zacupa, Michoacan, Mexico). The IUCN lists it as “Critically Endangered”.
Rare Aquatic Salamanders of Mexico’s Highlands
Anderson’s salamander is part of a complex of similar aquatic, neotenic salamanders which includes the Mexican axolotl (A. mexicanum). Neotenic species retain larval characteristics such as external gills and an aquatic lifestyle upon maturity.
A dozen or more species of these unique, poorly-studied amphibians inhabit mountain lakes in Mexico. Most are found only in a single lake or, in the case of the axolotl, may exist only in canals and other habitat remnants. Some, including the Dumeril’s salamander (A. dumrelii), seem to have adapted to waters that are somewhat saline in nature.
Hope for the Species’ Survival
The sole population of Anderson’s salamanders is threatened by pollution, habitat loss and collection for the (human) food trade. Its relative, the Mexican axolotl, was saved from extinction by captive breeding efforts, and is now in the unique position of being one of the most common captive and rarest wild salamanders.
Originally surfacing in Europe, captive-bred Anderson’s salamanders are now available in the USA as well. This represents a unique opportunity for serious hobbyists to help learn about and conserve an endangered species. As a bonus, Anderson’s salamander is large, beautifully patterned and relatively hardy as well.
Keeping Anderson’s Salamander
The captive husbandry of Anderson’s salamander is similar to that of the Mexican axolotl (please see article referenced below)…please write in if you are interested in becoming involved what may become a most worthwhile amphibian breeding effort. At this point, noted salamander specialist Michael Shrom is likely the only person breeding Anderson’s salamanders in the USA. You can contact Michael at shrommj at ptd.net.
You can read more about the natural history of Anderson’s salamander and its relatives at http://www.mexico-herps.com/caudata/ambystoma/ambystoma-andersoni.
For information on the Mexican axolotl, please see my article The Natural History and Care of the Mexican Axolotl http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2008/12/19/the-natural-history-and-captive-care-of-the-mexican-axolotl-ambystoma-mexicanum-natural-history-part-1/.
Photos courtesy of Michael Shrom.