I ran across a fascinating article the other day about a giant foot-long salamander that looks like a fish with legs. It still lives in the few remaining lake canal systems of Tenochtitlan, the ancient Aztec city upon which modern-day Mexico City was built. The Aztecs built their city in the middle of the ancient lake, creating canals between square, raised areas of earth, called chinampas, where they farmed. The people got around principally on gondola boats, a little like Venice, only not. Below is a visual representation of Tenochtitlan – you can see the canals and some of the squares that are the chinampas.
The only area of old Tenochtitlan that remains is called Xochimilco, where today, you can take a lovely boat ride in brightly decorated gondolas. The article notes that the “water monster,” as it is lovingly called, was an important part of the Aztec legend and diet. It has apparently survived at the bottom of the canals in Xochimilco since ancient Aztec times, but it is now in danger of extinction. Here’s a picture – he sure is a funny looking little guy, isn’t he?