Books and Links
Here is some information for further reading about axolotls. Aside from this site, the best information resource is the forum at Caudata.org. The friendly people of the community there are full of information and detailed experience, and they're more than delighted to welcome others with an interest in these amazing animals.
I have read a lot of books that deal with axolotls, and many which also discuss other salamanders. The selection of books listed below are pitched at different levels of hobbyist, but most should be somewhat accessible to all. I have read all of the following books unless otherwise indicated. I've found all of them informative and useful. The majority are available from online bookshops like Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes and Noble.
- Scott, Peter W., "Axolotls", 1981, T.F.H. Publications.
Later reissued as "Axolotls: Care and Breeding in Captivity", 1995, T.F.H. Publications.
This book begins by describing the Axolotl's obscure name and significance and goes on to cover its feeding, housing, breeding, genetics, and diseases. If you own an Axolotl as a pet, this is the book for you. The first edition was hardbacked, and though well illustrated, many of the photos were poorly printed and obscure. The second edition is a paper back, and contains many of the photos of the original (but in much higher quality), plus many new pictures and photos. The text however, is exactly the same, as far as I can tell. If you have a copy of the original, I would advise that you don't bother investing in the new edition unless you would like it for the new photos.
- Indiviglio, Frank, "Newts and Salamanders: a Complete Pet Owner's Manual", 1997, Barron's Educational Series.
Of all of the books I have read, including Peter Scott's book, the pages devoted to the Axolotl in this book are probably the most accurate and reliable of any book aimed at the hobbyist. Frank Indiviglio shows that he has a great deal of practical knowledge of the Axolotl and this book is a good buy for anyone looking for a book that covers a lot of salamanders.
- Various contributors, edited by John B. Armstrong and George M. Malacinski, "Developmental Biology of the Axolotl", 1989, Oxford University Press.
This has to be the definitive book about Axolotls. John B. Armstrong was the director of the University of Ottawa's Axolotl Colony until it was disbanded and George M. Malacinski was the faculty director of Indiana University's Axolotl Colony (now defunct but the Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center is a pale successor, in terms of information available online). Indiana University could quite rightly have been viewed as the second home of the Axolotl. It was there, in the late 1960s, that the albino form of the Axolotl was "created".
This book is all encompassing; its twenty five chapters are primarily aimed at scientists who work with axolotls, but for the keen pet-owner it contains quite a few chapters of interest, including the most in-depth account of the Axolotl's origins and history. The third section concentrates on the practicalities of maintaining Axolotls, and elsewhere in the book are chapters on genetics (one looking at Axolotl genetics in general, and others looking at specific categories or individual genes and their effects), metamorphosis and even an entire chapter devoted to the Axolotl's "lateral" line system.
The only downside to this book is that it lacks colour photographs. I obtained a copy of this book from Barnes and Noble in the US and at that time there were also a few available in the out of print section. You should be able to acquire it there for less than US $65.
- Smith, Hobart Muir; Smith, Rozella B. "Synopsis of the Herpetofauna of Mexico", 1971, University Press of Colorado.
I have yet to come across this book outside of Barnes and Noble. I've been told, as the title says, that it contains a synopsis of the pre-1971 literature on the Axolotl and includes a lot of older information including that of journals and magazines in Europe. There are several volumes in this title series - the ones that don't mention the Axolotl explicitly say so in the title. Hobart Smith's name pops up in many places when reading about axolotls and I have reason to believe this book is rather good. The only downside is that B&N currently want US $75 for it (ouch).
- Petranka, James W. "Salamanders of the United States and Canada", 1998, Smithsonian Institute Press.
This beautiful hardback book is probably the best book about salamanders that I have in my possession. Though it doesn't cover the Axolotl, it does cover most of the genus Ambystoma in great depth. The Tiger Salamander is discussed in great detail, including all of its described variants (at the time of publication).
Petranka approaches the subject of salamanders from a more ecological viewpoint, discussing their individual habitats in great detail. It's all the better for the hobbyist because we should always know how these animals really live. Containing lovely photographs, pictures, and diagrams, my only gripe is that the photos don't fill the full width of the pages. However I can't recommend this book too highly for the advanced hobbyist or scientist.
- Bishop, Sherman C. "Handbook of Salamanders: the Salamanders of the United States, of Canada and of Mexico", 1943, 1994, Cornell University Press.
I have yet to read this text, but from what I have heard, it is very good, if dated (I am unsure if the 1994 edition brings the species and the rest of the text up to date). It does cover the Axolotl though. It is written for the more scientifically minded.
- Griffiths, Richard "The Newts and Salamanders of Europe", 1996, T & AD Poyser.
Written for a similar audience to Petranka's book, this book is about a fifth of the length of Petranka's because it writes about its subjects in a combined sense rather than a very detailed account of each species. It does not discuss the Axolotl. In fact, the species section reserves only 1-2 pages per species. However, this doesn't detract much from the book itself. Griffiths, instead, prefers to compare and contrast throughout the book, which works reasonably well. This is surely the most detailed book about European salamanders. While most of the species covered are European, it does mention species in other parts of the world when talking about evolution and when making species comparisons.
- RaffaŽlli, Jean "Les UrodŤles du Monde", 2007 (possibly originally 2006?), Penclen Edition (Author Self-Published).
I haven't read this book yet but it's getting fine reviews on Caudata.org's Forum. It's written in French and published by the author. Jean RaffaŽlli is recognised as one of the world's leading authors of Salamander and Newt material. By all accounts this is currently the best multi-species (it covers all species at the time of publication) newt and salamander book available, featuring maps and species accounts describing their taxonomy, biology, ecology, behavior and a section on their maintenance and breeding in captivity. It's a beautiful book and has many photographs, most of them in colour. You can purchase the book directly from the author by emailing jean.raffaelliATlaposte.net (replace AT with @) or at his home address PENCLEN 56420-PLUMELEC FRANCE. It costs 65 euros (about US $80 right now). ISBN 978-2-9528246-0-6. You can also acquire the book from Breck Bartholomew (Bibliomania, in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA).
- Wells, Kentwood D. "The Ecology and Behavior of Amphibians", 2007, The University of Chicago Press.
This is a hefty/heavy hardback book that makes Petranka's book seem like "light" reading (light as in light as a paperback in comparison). It would make an ideal companion to Duellman and Trueb (see below), although Wells' book is written in a much more readable style than the other (which is a University level textbook). I'm somewhat disappointed that there are no colour photographs in Wells' otherwise beautiful book but that's the only criticism I can make. This thesis of amphibian ecology and behavior is eloquently written and to someone interested in general amphibian characteristics/aspects with specific examples, yes this is worth every penny of the hardback's $60 price. It does mention the axolotl but this book should not be bought for information on a particular species; it's more for the understanding of the trends and contrasts across class Amphibia (and also across all of the orders). It also has the added benefit of building muscle mass (I'm only half kidding)! At the time of writing this review (December 2007) there is a paperback edition due for publication. Both versions are available from Amazon.
- Duellman, William E.; Trueb, Linda, "Biology of Amphibians", 1994, Johns Hopkins University Press.
This book is a must for those interested in amphibian biology. The Axolotl is mentioned frequently, and there are diagrams, statistics, photographs (black and white), and information from the combined research of many hundreds of scientists around the world. This book isn't bedtime reading, but if you would like to know all there is to know about what makes your amphibian tick, this is the book for you.
- Coborn, John, "Salamanders and Newts... as a Hobby", 1993, T.F.H. Publications.
This is a beginners book on Salamanders and Newts. I mention it here because its section on breeding salamanders uses the Axolotl as the main example, and in so doing, gives a reasonable account, if not completely accurate (its mention of metamorphosing axolotls is rather disturbing in its approach, since it assumes that any axolotl can metamorphose). Apart from this, I recommend it for beginners.
Almost every book about salamanders mentions the Axolotl to some extent, so they're usually worth a look.
Website Links and Discussion Forums
For a full list of newt and salamander links, please go to Caudata.org's links section. As mentioned above, Caudata.org's Discussion Forum is by far the best on the Internet. Its Axolotl Section is very active, with users from all backgrounds and all levels of experience. The author of this site also runs Frogforum.net, a discussion forum for frog and toad enthusiasts.