See Frost (2021) for complete list of synonyms and Smith (1989) for name history.
Class: Amphibia — amphibians
Order: Caudata &mash; salamanders
Family: Ambystomatidae (Gray, 1850) — mole salamanders
Genus: Ambystoma (Tschudi, 1838)
Species: Ambystoma mexicanum (Shaw and Nodder, 1798) — axolotl, Mexican axolotl, salamandra axolote
Sources: Frost 2020; ITIS 2022; Diana Laura Vázquez-Mendoza, personal communication, 2023
In Aztec mythology, the axolotl was considered a transfiguration of the god Xolotl (depicted above), the twin brother of Quetzacoatl.
The name “axolotl” originates from the ancient Nauatal (or Náhuatl) language of the Aztecs. Translated from mythology, its name means “water dog,” “water sprite,” “water monster,” “water twin,” etc.
Image credit: Unknown artist. Made available by Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.
Illustration of an axolotl from an 1860s natural history book.
Around the time this illustration was published, more than 30 live axolotls were shipped from Xochimilco to Paris, where museum scientists began studying their biology in earnest. This included early regeneration research.
Curators shipped offspring from this axolotl group around the world, launching the axolotl's worldwide use as a model organism in biomedical, developmental, and evolution research.
Plate 191; Bilder Atlas zur wissenschaftlich populären Naturgeschichte der Wirbelthiere, 1868. Made available by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Public domain.