A family has been stunned to find very rare "Mexican walking fish" growing in their garden pond.

Daniella Marley, 19, and her mother found eggs of the critically endangered salamander behind their home in Widwell, Plymouth.

The pair first mistook them for frogspawn as they collected them in a bucket for their neighbour to help her home-school her children.

Five days later Daniella told PlymouthLive she got a message back from her saying: "These aren't frogs."

She and her mum then brought in some of the 'frogspawn' and the eggs began to grow "little gills".

Two pet shops confirmed the eggs were actually axolotl eggs – a critically endangered amphibian native to Mexico.

The neotenic salamander's scientific name is ambystoma mexicanum and is related to the tiger salamander.

Daniella said: "We took them to the pet shop and they've (said to us) definitely axolotl which is absolutely crazy.

"They are critically endangered, they are native to Mexico. As far as we are aware, we've got the only wild ones in the UK and we've got no clue how they got there."

The family has now invested in the proper equipment to give the salamander the correct environment in a bid to try and grow as many as they can, and will contact the RSPCA.

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She said: "We've got five big ones at (the neighbour's) house and then we're still trying to get the baby ones that sort of size as well.

"I mean, to be honest, we didn't believe it at first because kind of everyone said oh 'it's got to just be newts, it's got to just be salamander', there's no way we've actually got axolotl.

"But the pet shop, actually two pet shops confirmed it. Now (the neighbour's) one is a decent size you can tell that they're definitely axolotl and it's really hard to believe."

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Daniella added: "We're still trying to solve the mystery of where they came from.

"There are rivers nearby but they're not native to rivers either and they don't travel on land, so I don't know how they got into the pond."

Her neighbours' kids "have had an absolute field day," she said.

"The reason we gave them the frogspawn is because their kids are quite suffering with home school and they were really excited to have a sort of project to work on.

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"I think they're over the moon but it's even more exciting than frogs."

The axolotl is found only in the lake complex of Xochimilco near Mexico City, and differ from most other salamanders in that they live permanently in water.

They can be quite large, reaching up to a foot in length, although the average size is closer to half that and live up to 15 years on a diet of molluscs, worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, and some fish.

They are also popular in the aquarium trade, and roasted axolotl is considered a delicacy in Mexico, further shrinking their numbers.

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