May 5

Break out the tacos and sombreros because Cinco de Mayo, a popular holiday in Mexico celebrating the nation’s culture and heritage, is right around the corner! There will be plenty of colorful festivities occurring on the day, so in honour of this celebration, we’d like to highlight some of Mexico’s most brilliant wildlife.

Amphibian with a headdress

The axolotl is a remarkable salamander that lives its whole life in the larval stage. It is easily distinguished by the characteristic pink feather-like gills that branch out from its neck. This incredible amphibian is also able to regrow missing tissue, and even whole limbs, when it is wounded.

Axolotl photo

Portrait showing feather-like gills of axolotl

The “New World” king  of the jungle

The jungles of Mexico are prime jaguar habitat. This striking cat was once widespread throughout the Americas, but with human activities threatening its survival, its range has become highly fragmented. Jaguars are opportunistic hunters, and relative to their size, they have the most powerful bite of all the big cats.

Jaguar photo

Jaguar resting in tree

Fiesta fish

The coney is a fish in the grouper family with an interesting quirk. Although all individuals begin life as females, they later change gender and become males. This interesting species also exhibits aggressive mimicry, where juveniles join groups of the similar looking brown chromis, allowing them to stealthily approach unsuspecting prey.

Coney photo


Desert dweller

Endemic to the southwestern United States and Mexico, the desert tortoise grazes on desert grasses, obtaining nearly all the water it requires from its food. The ambient temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings, with females produced at higher temperatures than males.

Desert tortoise photo

Desert tortoise feeding on flowers

Bird of brilliance

The scarlet macaw is an iconic and charismatic bird with bright plumage and loud vocalisations. It flys in flocks of up to 30 and frequently visits ‘clay licks’ on river banks to eat soil. Although it might seem like a strange habit, scientists believe the soil may protect the macaw against toxic compounds that it might have ingested.

Scarlet macaw photo

Scarlet macaw in flight

A flowering find

Although it looks strikingly similar to its namesake, the artichoke cactus is actually a small cactus found only within the Valley of Jaumave in eastern Mexico. Just the very tip of the cactus emerges from the soil, but with all the spirals and whorls, this is likely the most spectacular part.

Artichoke cactus photo

Artichoke cactus

These species are just a sample of the myriad of beautiful wildlife that Mexico has to offer. If you’ve got some time, why not explore some of the other species found in Mexico on ARKive and share your favorites in the comments!

Maggie Graham, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA