There are several selectively bred colour and pattern variations that occur in captive Axolotls. These are called morphs in the pet trade. Some of these morphs are more common than the wild type or normal in captivity. Some morphs are easier to find in pet shops than a wild type. Below I will discuss some of these morphs.
This is the natural colouration that Axolotls display in the wild. A wild Axolotl has a brown background colouration with some dark green blotches. Their gills are purple.
Albinos are white with red eyes and bright red gills. This is the most common morph, easy to obtain and cheap. Most of the pictures of Axolotls on the internet and in books about this species are albinos. It is infact easier to find an albino Axolotl than a wild type one. When I began keeping Axolotls the only ones available in South Africa where I live were albinos. Zoos in South Africa often only have albinos on display.
This morph looks virtually the same as an albino. You can tell them apart by looking at their eyes. Leucistic specimens have black eyes as opposed to the albino morphs red eyes. Some individuals may develop dark speckling on their bodies, however this does not happen with all leucistic Axolotls. If you want a white Axolotl and can’t find an albino this is your next best option.
This morph displays a golden yellow body and vibration shiny patches. Clear eyes, with peachy coloured gills. This morph is a type of albinism which looks different to the white albino. Albinism in amphibians can be different from other animals as this trait can have a few different strains of albinos that look different from each other.
Genetically Engineered Morphs
Scientists have used Axolotls as lab animals for decades if not longer. At least two types of gene alteration of Axolotls has been performed. The first is an Axolotl that was created using flourecent green proteins found in some species of jelly fish. These individuals glow green under UV light. Scientists did this to make cancer treatment and limb regeneration studies in this species easier to observe. This trait can be passed on to the next generation, making them available to keepers who want something really unusual. An Axolotl was produced by adding genes to embryos this results in an Axolotl with a normal colouration with a flourecent green tail. This was done to study what happens when two different embryos fuse to create a single individual. Only a dozen of these have been made and will not be made available in the pet trade. A natural occuring Axolotl morph called a Chimera is caused by the fusing of two embryos this morph takes on the visual characteristics of both of the embryos. For example if one of the embryos carries the albino gene and the other embryo carries the wild type brown colouration you would get an albino with a brown tail. This chances of this occuring from natural breeding is so rare that it hardly ever happens. This is why scientists had to create this phenomenon using artificial methods.
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