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Why a Google Doodle is celebrating the home of the axolotl with an interactive game today

You might notice that today’s Google home page features cute, animated aquatic creatures winding around the iconic logo.

The Interactive Doodle is a tribute to Xochimilco – an ancient lake of exceptional natural beauty in Mexico.

Xochimilco is the last remaining home of wild axolotls, a distinctive amphibian that is related to the salamander and holds deep cultural significance.

Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s Google Doodle and how to take part in the interactive game.

What is Lake Xochimilco?

The lake, which dates back to Aztec construction of causeways in the 13th or 14th centuries, is situated just outside of Mexico City. On 20 May, 1920, the Mexican government opened it to the public.

The water’s landscape requires special farming methods using artificial floating gardens. The farmers, known as chinamperos, plant hundreds of vegetables, and herbs in the nutrient-rich soil.

Aside from the ancient lake acting as a haven for animals, birds, and plants, it’s also a popular destination for rowing and kayaking.

What are axolotls and why are they endangered?

The Axolotls that reside in the lake are the only ones left in the world. The amphibians, which are related to the tiger salamander, were listed as a critically endangered species in 2008.

Draughts, water waste disposal, and a loss of habitat mean there are very few left outside of aquariums.

Sometimes known as “Mexican walking fish”, axolotls spend their lives underwater, where they feed on small prey, such as molluscs and worms. Their name derives from “Xolotl”, an Aztec god with a dog-shaped head, who disguised himself as an Axolotl.

Axolotls have surprising importance in the scientific community. The species is able to regenerate limbs up to five times, with the process taking a matter of weeks. Cancer researchers have also studied their ability to resist cancerous tissues.

How does the Lake Xochimilco Google Doodle game work?

The illustrations are the work of artist Helen Leroux, who travelled to Mexico City to catch a glimpse of axolotls first-hand.
To play the game, click on the images on the Google home page. You’ll then be taken through the animated landscape on a trijanera, a colourful wooden boat that is used on the lush lake, and click to snap a picture of a passing axolotl. Each time you do so, you’ll be presented with a fact about the fascinating critter.

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