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墨西哥城的吉祥物“会走的鱼”

Mexico City's 'walking fish'
墨西哥城的吉祥物“会走的鱼”

Frankie was missing half his face. A fungal infection had come over the little axolotl, a native amphibian of the waterways of Mexico City.

小蝾螈弗兰基被真菌感染,半张脸不见了。这种小蝾螈是生活在墨西哥城水系里的两栖动物。

But Frankie, along with other axolotls, have a special talent. Veterinarian and axolotl researcher Erika Servín Zamora, who was also Frankie’s caregiver, said she was astounded to see the animal’s remarkable regeneration abilities that she’d read about in her studies. Within two months, Frankie had grown a new, fully functional eye, and life was back to normal in his tank at the city’s Chapultepec Zoo.

弗兰基和其它蝾螈一样,有一种特殊的才能。查普尔特佩克动物园(Chapultepec Zoo)兽医兼蝾螈研究人员赞莫拉(Erika Servin Zamora)是弗兰基的照顾者,她在研究中发现这种动物非凡的再生能力,感到非常震惊。不到两个月,弗兰基就长出了一只功能齐全的新眼睛,它在动物园的生活也恢复了正常。
 

Frankie might not have been so lucky in his native habitat, just about 30km south of the zoo. The axolotl, though gaining traction as a symbol of Mexico City, and specifically of the southern borough of Xochimilco, a Unesco World Heritage site, is nearly extinct in the wild due to increases in invasive fish species and water pollution in the city’s troubled canals. Making things worse, Frankie is an albino axolotl, which means he’s light pink with frilly, pink gills coming off his head – he’d be easy prey for Xochimilco’s invasive tilapia in the dark, murky waters.

弗兰基的老家在动物园以南30公里处,那里的蝾螈可能就没那么幸运了。蝾螈是墨西哥城的象征,特别是联合国教科文组织世界遗产(Unesco World Heritage)所在地科琴米洛克(Xochimilco)的象征,也越来越受到人们的关注,但由于外来入侵的鱼类的增加和该市运河的水污染,野生蝾螈几乎已经灭绝。更糟糕的是,弗兰基是一只白化的蝾螈,这意味着它是淡粉色的,有褶边,粉红色的鳃从头上耷拉下来,因此它很容易成为入侵科琴米洛克黑暗水域的罗非鱼的猎物。

Known locally as “water monsters”, axolotls have a love-them-or-leave-them appearance. For some, these 20cm-long, soft-skinned, water dwellers are considered adorable, with the appearance of a perpetual smile. For others, these four-toed amphibians are just plain odd.

蝾螈在当地被称为“水怪”,它们的外表属于“有人爱,有人厌”的那种。对一些人来说,这些20厘米长、皮肤柔软的两栖动物是可爱的,它们总是面带微笑。对另一些人来说,这些四趾两栖动物的长相实在是太奇葩了。

Despite their somewhat polarising looks, they are of particular interest to scientists hoping that axolotls like Frankie just might teach us humans the regeneration trick someday.

尽管容貌给人的感觉两极分化,但科学家们对它们特别感兴趣,他们希望像弗兰基这样的蝾螈有一天能教会我们人类再生的技巧。

“Scientists are looking to benefit from the regenerative properties of axolotls by applying them to people who are injured in accidents, wars or suffering illness – people who lose limbs,” Servín Zamora said. “Others are looking for ways that axolotl regeneration can benefit human organs, such as by healing the heart or the liver.”

赞莫拉说:“科学家们希望将蝾螈的再生特性应用于在事故、战争或疾病中失去四肢的人,让他们获益。其他人正在寻找将蝾螈再生应用于人体器官的方法,比如治愈心脏或肝脏疾病。”

Axolotls are also helping Servín Zamora and other scientists understand the apparent resistance to cancer that all amphibians seem to have. “In 15 years, I have not seen any cases of malignant tumours in axolotls, which is interesting,” she said. “We suspect that their ability to regenerate cells and body parts helps them in that respect.”

蝾螈还帮助赞莫拉和其他科学家了解到,所有两栖动物似乎都对癌症具有明显抵抗能力。她说:“15年来,我没有在蝾螈身上看到任何恶性肿瘤的病例,这很有趣。我们怀疑它们再生细胞和身体器官的能力在这方面帮助了它们。”

And that's not all. Axolotls have been used traditionally throughout Mexico as a remedy for conditions associated with things like pregnancy, frailty and respiratory illness. A group of nuns in Patzcuaro, Mexico, legally breeds one axolotl species, ambystoma dumerilii, and uses the animals as an ingredient in cough syrup, though traditionally they were consumed as part of a broth.

这还不是全部。传统上,墨西哥各地都使用蝾螈来治疗产妇、体弱或是呼吸系统疾病。在墨西哥的帕茨夸罗(Patzcuaro),一群修女合法地培育了一个蝾螈品种(名叫ambystoma dumerilii),并把它们作为止咳糖浆的成分,传统上它们也是会被炖汤食用。

Perpetual teenagers – and representations of the divine

永恒的少年和神的化身


Frankie is an ambystoma mexicanum, one of the 17 species of axolotl in Mexico. Found primarily in the states of Mexico, Puebla and Michoacán, many are critically endangered. Some species transform themselves into earth-walking salamanders by losing their tadpole-like tails and gills from their heads. However, this too depends on the environment. Frankie, for instance, living in captivity and therefore void of predators, will stay an eternal teenager. Never transforming into salamanders, axolotls like him will keep the tail they developed as a larva and live completely underwater.

弗兰基属于17种墨西哥蝾螈的其中之一。这种蝾螈主要分布在墨西哥的普埃布拉(Puebla)和米却肯州(Michoacán),濒临灭绝。在成长过程中,这些小生物会失去蝌蚪状的尾巴和头上的鳃,变成能在陆地上行走的蝾螈。然而,这也取决于环境。以弗兰基为例,它是被饲养的,因此不会被捕食。它也将永远保持少年的状态。像它一样的蝾螈会保留尾巴,完全生活在水下。

“Basically, they decide whether they will complete the metamorphosis, based on environmental stressors,” Servín Zamora said. “If they decide it would be better to live out of water, they will undergo the transformation into salamanders, but that can be a stressful undertaking in itself as they stop eating completely for that period. The current theory is that, for evolutionary reasons, the ambystoma mexicanum would remain in a juvenile state [somewhere between a tadpole and a salamander] because there was so much food in the water [such as charales, a small freshwater fish] and they had few predators, so there was little reason to emerge.”

“基本上,它们会根据环境压力来决定是否完成蜕变,”赞莫拉说:“如果它们决定离开水域,更好地生活,就将经历变成蝾螈的过程。但这本身就是一项艰苦的工作,因为在这段时间里它们会完全停止进食。当前的理论是,由于进化的原因,墨西哥钝口螈(ambystoma mexicanum)会仍处于幼年状态,介于蝌蚪和蝾螈的形态之间。因为有这么多的食物在水中(如藻类和小型淡水虾),又几乎没有天敌,所以几乎没有理由出现蜕变。”

Because of this tendency to change form, axolotls have a profound presence in Aztec (or Mexica) cosmogony. They were often recognised as a representation of Xolotl, god of the underworld and the malefic twin of the feathered serpent god Quetzacoatl, often represented as the sun.

由于这种形态变化的趋势,蝾螈对阿兹特克(Aztec)或墨西哥的宇宙发展史上有着深远的影响。蝾螈通常被认为是琐罗陀(Xolotl)的代表,琐罗陀是冥界之神,是长有羽毛的蛇神奎萨卡托(Quetzacoatl)的邪恶孪生兄弟,通常代表太阳。

When various gods were asked to make a sacrifice in order to create the world, Xolotl fled into the water. For his cowardice and reluctance to help, he was damned to live forever in the water and to suffer from eternal youth. For the Aztecs, death was transcendence, and to not complete that cycle meant being banned from reaching a higher realm.

当各种各样的神被要求做出牺牲来创造世界时,琐罗陀就逃到水里去了。由于他的懦弱和自私,他受到诅咒,永远生活在水里,遭受永远无法长大的痛苦。对阿兹特克人来说,死亡意味着超越,不完成生死循环就意味着无法进入更高的领域。

A tourist attraction

旅游景点


Despite the axolotl’s endangered status, images of Frankie and his friends are plastered all over Mexico City, covering walls as street art and sold as plush toys in gift shops. An image of the ambystoma mexicanum axolotl will grace the 50-peso bill to be released in 2022. And Mexico City’s updated tour buses feature an image of an albino axolotl emblazoned on its double-decker sides.

尽管蝾螈濒临灭绝,但弗兰基和伙伴们的照片却遍布墨西哥城的大街小巷,绘在墙上的街头艺术,或礼品店里出售的毛绒玩具。墨西哥蝾螈的形象将荣登2022年发行的50比索纸币。墨西哥城最新的双层旅游巴士侧面都印有白化蝾螈的图案。

Years ago, if you wanted to find an axolotl, all you had to do was look for a canal. Mexico City was built on the bed of what was once a massive lake, which the Aztecs used to create canals – as well as chinampas, floating islands made out of trees and mud that were used to grow food – for navigational and transportation purposes. Though the lake and much of the canal system have been drained over the years to make way for a growing population, more than 183km of canals remain in the Xochimilco borough, and 165 hectares of land and water are located in the protected area of the Xochimilco Ecological Park.

几年前,你只需要找到一条运河,就能找到蝾螈。墨西哥城建在曾经是巨大湖泊的湖床上。阿兹特克人利用这个湖开辟了运河,用于航行和运输;还造了奇昂帕(chinampas),就是用树木和泥土建造的漂浮岛屿,用来种植粮食。尽管多年来,因为不断增长的人口,湖泊和运河系统的大部分已经被排干,但科琴米洛克区仍有超过183公里的运河,165公顷的土地和水域位于保护区的生态公园内。

But rather than axolotls, visitors today are likely to see numerous migratory bird species and revellers on boats in the canals. The area has become heavily touristed and is best known as a place to go for a ride in colourful wooden boats called trajineras, where smaller boats come over full of mariachis, or to sell beer and refreshments.

但今天的游客看到的可能不是蝾螈,而是大量的候鸟和运河游船上的狂欢者。这个地区已经成为旅游胜地,最出名的是乘坐五颜六色的名为川进拉斯(trajineras)的木船。在这里,小船满载现场演奏乐队,或者出售啤酒和点心。

Environmental threats

环境威胁


As trajineras are motorless boats, they are not thought to negatively impact the axolotls. However, the chinampas are not connected to the city’s sewage system, so waste often winds up in the canals. Other threats to the amphibians include the quick growth of non-native, ornamental aquatic plants, and pollution from industrial fertilisers, as well as invasive species such as carp and tilapia, which were introduced by the government in the 1970s to supply food to the formerly rural area. The latter idea was well-intentioned, Servín Zamora said, but not well thought out, as the carp and tilapia feast on young axolotls.

由于川进拉斯没有发动机,所以被认为不会对蝾螈产生不良影响。然而,奇昂帕并没有连接城市的污水处理系统,所以垃圾通常会聚集在运河里。还有其它对两栖动物的威胁,比如外来观赏水生植物的快速生长,化肥的污染,以及鲤鱼和罗非鱼这些外来鱼种的入侵,这些鱼类是政府在上世纪70年代引进的,本来打算为农村地区提供食物。赞莫拉说,政府出于好意,但并没有考虑周翔,因此鲤鱼和罗非鱼正在享用小蝾螈。

“The problems that Xochimilco faces are not just environmental, but social as well,” Servín Zamora said. “People do not have enough income from their chinampas or ecotourism, so they tend to build their homes there [on their chinampa land, which is an affordable option as they already own the property] and for that reason urbanization has grown so much in those areas. Unfortunately, all the drainage from those homes goes directly into the canals, and that has caused tremendous pollution.”

“科琴米洛克面临的不仅是环境问题,还有社会问题,”赞莫拉说:“人们无法从奇昂帕或生态旅游中赚取足够的收入,所以倾向于在奇昂帕土地上建设自己的家园,他们负担得起,因为已经拥有一些财产。因为如此,这些地区城市化很快。不幸的是,这些房屋的污水直接排入运河,造成了巨大的污染。”

In 2017, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) did a study monitoring the canals. While the results are still under review, it was shown that the water pollution is very serious in Xochimilco’s rapidly growing urban zones. Servín Zamora said there is hope of recuperating spaces still devoted to agriculture and therefore less likely to be tainted by pollution caused by overpopulation. “If we work hard with education, research and working directly in the area, we can rescue it, even if it’s just one part.” Still, the study found just one axolotl living in the wild in Xochimilco.

2017年,墨西哥国立自治大学(National Autonomous University of Mexico)对运河进行了监测研究。结果显示,在科琴米洛克快速发展的城市地区,水污染非常严重。赞莫拉说,恢复的土地仍有希望用于农业生产,因此不太可能受到人口过剩造成的污染。"如果我们在教育、研究和直接保育方面努力工作,我们就可以拯救小蝾螈,尽管它只是自然环境的一部分。尽管如此,研究发现只有一只野生蝾螈生活在科琴米洛克。

Saving the axolotl

拯救蝾螈


Today, most axolotls live in captivity. Yanin Carbajal is the co-founder of Casa del Axolotl, a museum and aquarium dedicated to educating the public on axolotls, located in the town of Chignahuapan in Puebla. Her project started years ago with breeding tanks at her family’s ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. The museum space located in town opened last year, featuring 15 to 20 axolotls of four different species.

如今,大多数蝾螈都是养殖的。卡巴加尔(Yanin Carbajal)是“蝾螈之家”(Casa del Axolotl)的联合创始人,这是一家致力于向公众普及蝾螈知识的水族博物馆,位于普埃布拉的齐纳瓦潘镇(Chignahuapan)。她的项目开始于几年前,开始时只是在她家位于马德雷山脉(Sierra Madre Oriental)山麓牧场的饲养箱内养殖。去年镇上的博物馆开放,展出了四个不同种类的15到20只蝾螈。

Carbajal said she was motivated to care for axolotls because of their strong link to Mexico’s pre-Columbian history, their important implications for human health, and the goal to preserve the species and improve their habitats. However, she cautions potential pet owners that raising axolotls is no simple feat. While keeping them as pets around the world is legal, in Mexico it’s only legal to obtain them from a nursery accredited by the secretary of environment.

卡巴加尔说,她之所以关注蝾螈,是因为它们与前哥伦布时代的墨西哥历史有着密切的联系,对人类健康有着重要的意义。蝾螈之家的目标是保护蝾螈物种,改善它们的栖息地。然而,她提醒潜在的宠物主人,饲养蝾螈并不是一件简单的事情。虽然把它们作为宠物饲养在世界各地都是合法的,但在墨西哥,只有从环境部长认可的繁育场所获得它们才是合法的。

“Ignorance is a big problem, with people taking them from the wild and keeping them as pets in some cases or selling them,” Carbajal said. “If people are able to breed them, well that is a positive. But if not, then that is not helping the species. As they live in still water lakes and lagoons, the temperatures tend not to fluctuate as quickly as they can in captivity [making captivity a serious undertaking].”

卡巴加尔说:“无知是个大问题,有些人把它们从野外带回来当宠物养,有些人把它们卖掉。如果能够人工繁殖它们,那是有效的。但如果不是,那么对这个物种就没什么帮助。因为它们生活在平静的湖泊和泻湖中,那里的水温不像饲养环境变动那样快,这也使得饲养成为一项艰巨的任务。”

Mexico City has a few places where captive axolotls can be seen today, including Chapultepec Zoo, Zoológico Los Coyotes and the headquarters of tour operators Axolotitlán and Umbral Axochiatl, both in Xochimilco.

今天,墨西哥城有几个地方可以看到人工饲养的蝾螈,包括查普尔特佩克动物园(Chapultepec Zoo)、罗斯克亚台斯动物园(Zoologico Los Coyotes),以及旅游运营商阿科罗提泰兰(Axolotitlan)和巫布拉阿琴起亚特(Umbral Axochiatl)。它们的总部都在科琴米洛克。

Pamela Valencia is the founder of Axolotitlán, a Mexico City-based operator that aims to educate locals and travellers on Xochimilco’s delicate ecosystem and the need to support axolotls, through tours with a cooperative of local chinamperos (chinampa farmers) in the ecological park.

瓦伦西亚(Pamela Valencia)是总部位于墨西哥城的阿科罗提泰兰公司的创始人,该公司旨在与当地的奇昂帕农场主合作经营生态公园旅游项目,向当地人和旅行者介绍科琴米洛克脆弱的生态系统,以及保育蝾螈的必要性。

“The axolotl is a theme in Mexico that has to do with politics, society, the use of resources, environmental and systemized education,” Valencia said on a warm afternoon at her axolotl refuge, where visitors can come to learn about the axolotls. “It’s a topic that touches on all the rubrics of society in one way or another. We believe that the axolotl is a secret to save our city, our country and probably the world. It’s an incredibly important animal that can inspire people to stop doing things [such as polluting] that we’ve been doing for a long time as a society, and to do better in many ways.”

“蝾螈是墨西哥的一个象征,与政治、社会、资源利用、环境和系统化教育密切相关。”一个温暖的下午,瓦伦西亚在在她的蝾螈救援站说,游客可以在这里了解蝾螈。“这是一个以多样的方式触碰所有社会规则的话题。我们相信,蝾螈是拯救我们的城市、国家、甚至全世界的秘密。这是一种非常重要的动物,可以促使人们停止长期以来一直在做的事情(比如制造污染),并在很多方面有更重要的意义。”

Dionisio Eslava, president of Umbral Axochiatl, which works with Axolotitlán to organise tours in his native Xochimilco so that visitors can better understand the natural side of Xochimilco, said that closing the gap geographically, culturally and socioeconomically between central Mexico City folk and the farmers in the south is one way to help clean up the zone, and thus help the axolotls return to the area.

巫布拉阿琴起亚特的总裁艾斯拉瓦(Dionisio Eslava),在家乡科琴米洛克与阿科罗提泰兰公司一起组织旅游项目,让游客们可以更好地理解当地的自然生态。他认为,弥合墨西哥中部城市居民和南方农民之间在地理、文化和社会经济方面的差距,是清洁该地区的一个方法,然后墨西哥蝾螈就有望回家。

“Ecosystems are a type of security, not only for food but also water, oxygen and as an ally for facing climate change,” he said. “The big cities should support our ecosystems by visiting us and accompanying us in this treasure that is a great inheritance of all of humanity.”

艾斯拉瓦说:“生态系统是一种安全保障,不仅是食物安全,也是水和氧气的安全,是应对气候变化的重要工具。大城市应该支持我们的生态系统,了解我们,和我们在一起,这也是全人类的伟大遗产。”

Not only can this small and often overlooked animal guide us in protecting the planet, but it potentially holds the key to unlocking certain scientific mysteries.

蝾螈这种微笑且常被忽视的动物不仅能告诉我们如何保护地球,而且可能成为解开某些科学之谜的钥匙。

Frankie lived to be eight years old – though captive axolotls can live 12 years or more – dying of natural causes at Chapultepec Zoo in 2010. Servín Zamora holds a special place for him in her heart because he was one of the first axolotls she ever worked with and she learned quite a lot from him – hopefully, the rest of the world will, too.

2010年,弗兰基在查普尔特佩克动物园自然死亡,享年八岁。它在赞莫拉心中有着特殊的地位,因为是赞莫拉研究的第一批蝾螈之一。赞莫拉从它身上学到了很多,希望世界上的其他人也是如此。
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