Axolotls are a species of salamander that exhibit the trait of neotony, which means that it remains in larval form throught its life. A comparison would be if a tadpole never grew into a frog, but remained water-bound its entire life. This is simply a genetic trait the species has; it likely started out as a mutation in an older species of salamander, and the neotonal ones flourished in their environment so they survived. Neotony happens rarely in other amphibians, but is typical of axolotls. The rarity for this species is the occasional wild individual that actually does metamorphose, loses its frilly gills and crawls onto land. Read about an example of this in the second link below.
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