Wednesday 20 July 2011

Mexican Mole Lizard

Mexican Mole Lizards, or Ajolotes, are reptiles that meld the comical, the creepy and maybe even the cute to create... confusion. They sort of remind me of the Turtle Frog, which turns out to be quite reasonable because they both spend their lives digging through the earth. It seems that when it comes to life underground, only the weirdest will do.

Mexican Mole Lizards aren't really lizards at all but they are a relation, and so too are snakes. These Ajolotes have a genus to themselves called Bipes, referring to their two legs. Yes, TWO LEGS! They are right up there just behind the head, while the rest of the body trails behind them. It's a bit like one of those Chinese dragons, except the guy holding up the head hasn't realised that everyone else has left.

On their tiny toes are not-so-tiny claws for digging through the soil. They usually keep just below the surface, but they go deeper down when the heat gets a bit much. This will probably happen quite often since they are indeed found only in Mexico.

They eat various meat products they come across; ants, termites, earthworms and the larvae of insects. At night or after rains they may leave their burrow and explore the exciting world above ground. Here, they can eat yet more insects and even small lizards.

It may seem like they are composed almost entirely of one, long tail. In fact, the tail is just the last 10% or so of their length. It's also incredibly stubby, in fact it looks a lot like their head! It doesn't attenuate or anything, the whole animal just suddenly stops.

There are 4 species of Mexican Mole Lizard but all the fame seems to be centred on just one, Bipes biporus, who has five toes, is about 20 cm (8 in) long and less than 1 cm wide. It seems like the other species have just 3 or 4 toes. There really isn't much information on these other species, but at least you can see how big one of them is and take a look at how it uses those tiny, little legs. It's almost absurd to think of them being used for anything at all!

Mexican Mole Lizards mate right there in their burrows. About 4 eggs are laid during a very dry time of the year, but they are ready to hatch when the rains come. It's good to see the clever mother give her children an extra leg-up in the world, they'll need it...


TexWisGirl said...

that is hilarious! what a little dirt digger! laughed at your chinese dragon comparison - everyone else has gone home. ha ha!

Simsmac said...

What an interesting little creature! Do they use undulation to move also, or are those stumpy little legs the only thing scooting it along?

Joseph JG said...

@texwisgirl: Heh, glad you enjoyed it!

@Simsmac: Hi! Above ground they use undulations like a snake, they are actually quite nimble in some of those videos.

Underground they can move along like an earthworm, but I think those legs are great help!

Mexican Mole Lizards have some close relatives that have no limbs at all. I'll definitely get to them eventually, but I wanted to start with the more famous and fun looking one!

Meg said...

Wish I had seen one of these in real life while living in Mexico! They're pretty darn cool.
Liked your Chinese dragon analogy--spot on, i think. lol

Joseph JG said...

Thanks! And I think we all wish we had seen one wherever we are!

Unknown said...

I love the photo of it, it looks slightly concerned or shy, like, "Hey, um, if I can burrow in this dirt here, would that be uh, okay with you?"

So adorable!

Joseph JG said...

haha! I never looked at it like that! Nice that he cares!

Unknown said...

Hey you´re wrong...Bipes canaliculatus (the wrong ajolote) and Ambystoma mexicanum (the real ajolote) are 2 completely different things, Bipes is a reptile and Ambystoma is an Amphibium

Joseph JG said...

As far as I know, the Mexican Mole Lizard is also known as an Ajolote. Perhaps less commonly, though that might just be because the Mole Lizard is less commonly seen.

I know Ambystoma mexicanum as an "Axolotl", although now I look it up that seems to be basically the same word as Ajolote. Fascinating!

Anyway, I have Axolotl, too:
so I think I'm pretty well covered!

Anonymous said...

yaaaaaayyyyyyy its a mole




Unknown said...

Like a lindworm!