Although it may look like a whimsical cartoon character, the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is in serious trouble.
Also known as the Mexican Walking Fish, this critically endangered salamander is naturally found only in the local waterways near Mexico City. Rapid urbanization and subsequent water pollution have destroyed much of the creature's habitat, and the introduction of non-native species into the salamander's habitat had a detrimental impact on dwindling population.
During a 2013 survey, researchers were unable to find any wild axolotls, fomenting fears that the animal may be completely extinct in the wild. Luckily, a handful of the elusive creatures have since been spotted.
The axolotl is also alive and well in laboratories around the world, and is a staple of the exotic pet trade.
Although it can live beyond 20 years, the creature's average lifespan is closer to a decade. The salamander typically grows to be just under a foot in length.
Fun fact: the axolotl is known to swallow small gravel and small pebbles, which help the creature maintain its buoyancy in the water. In the absence of small pebbles, the creature may attempt to swallow other small objects in the water -- like plastic pollution -- which can be extremely harmful to its health.
Article originally appeared on Discovery's blog Discovrd.