Mammals, reptiles and amphibians in Mexico


Mexico comes second in the world for the number of different mammals it has and for the variety of its ecosystems.  The jaguar is the most iconic of the larger creatures. From the time of the Aztecs and Mayans to the present day, the jaguar has been a symbol of power and mastery. The jaguar prefers thick forest, so it is at home in Central America and the northern parts of South America, where it usually hunts alone. It can bite through the skull of a capybara and the armoured shell of an armadillo. Unlike most cats the jaguar enjoys a swim. Another large mammal is the manatee, (sea cow or siren), which inhabits the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and nearby rivers and creeks, not emerging from the water even to give birth. Then there are armadillos, which like to dig their burrows in soft earth near water. They can swim across small streams by inflating themselves with air, or stay submerged for up to six minutes using the weight of their outer shells. There are also anteaters, sloths, monkeys and bats. Rodents include squirrels, chipmunks, kangaroo rats, mice and pocket gophers. 


Reptiles and Amphibians

With about 720 species Mexico has the greatest recorded diversity of reptiles in the world. Most well known is the crocodile family, which includes alligators and caimans, but there are also turtles, like the Mexican Mud Turtle, tortoises and terrapins, a great many lizards – the Mexican Plateau Horned Lizard looks very spiky – and all kinds of snakes, including the Splendid Cat-Eyed snake.  Mexico has 290 species of amphibians, including the axolotl, which originated in the lakes under Mexico City, now dried up. The axolotl is an extraordinary, large ‘tadpole’, which can become an adult without metamorphosing into a land salamander. It was once a regular item in the Aztec diet. The name, axolotl, comes from ‘atl’ meaning ‘water’ and Xolotl, an Aztec god with responsibilities for games, monstrosities, twins, and the dead and resurrected.