Reptiles and Amphibians

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A Gecko

A Salamander


In this lesson, we are going to examine reptiles and amphibians. Above is a picture of a gecko and a salamander.  At first glance, they seem quite similar. But, in fact, they are quite different. A gecko is a reptile and a salamander is an amphibian.


What are reptiles and amphibians? Well, perhaps, it is best to show you some examples of reptiles and amphibians before we discuss what they are.


Reptiles: Snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles, and alligators are all reptiles.


A Snake



A Turtle

A crocodile

Amphibians: Frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians are all amphibians.





A salamander



A toad

A frog

(c) 2003

The Differences Between Reptiles and Amphibians:


So back to the original question: if a gecko and a salamander look so similar, how come they are so different? Maybe, the answer is where they live. Salamanders live in water but geckos live on land. What do you think?


Actually, where they live is not the answer since toads are amphibians, but they live on land. And turtles are reptiles, but they live in water.


Tadpoles: The larval stage

of frogs


Well, if the answer is not where they live, then what is it? There are several differences but the most important is when they are born. Reptiles are born in eggs on land and amphibians are born in eggs in the water. And because amphibians are born in water they have gills when they are young, whereas reptiles have lungs. In fact, amphibians are a lot like fish when they are first born, but when they grow, they become more like reptiles. The early stage of amphibians is called the larval stage. Tadpoles are the larval stage of frogs.


There are other differences and similarities, too. Both amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded vertebrates, or animals with backbones. However, amphibians have moist skin with no fur or scales. And amphibians use their skin for breathing and drinking water. On the other hand, reptiles usually have dry skin that is covered in scales.


Make a Chart Showing the Differences:














Poison Dart Frogs:


Poison dart frogs live in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. They are called poison dart frogs because they are poisonous and the indigenous people use this toxin to hunt animals. They put this poison on their blow darts and then shoot the animals out of the tree. The toxin comes from the frogs skin.


Poison dart frogs are very colorful, which helps them warn other animals not to eat them. They live for about 10 years and eat insects such as ants and termites. They spend most of their time on the moist floor of the rainforest.


Hunting with

poison darts.

The most remarkable thing about poison dart frogs is how they take care of their young. After the eggs are laid and the tadpoles hatch, one of the adult frogs puts the tadpoles on its back and carries the tadpoles to plants high in the canopy. These plants have pockets of water trapped within cuplike leaves. The adult will put the young tadpoles into many different plants to increase the chances of survival.

Comprehension Questions:

Why are they called poison dart frogs?


What part of the frog is poisonous?


What do they eat?


Where do they live?


Why are they remarkable?

Vocabulary: What do these words mean?


indigenous people:__________________________________________



toxin: ___________________________________________________



termite: _________________________________________________



moist: ___________________________________________________



remarkable: ______________________________________________



tadpole: _________________________________________________



hatch: __________________________________________________



canopy: __________________________________________________





Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. A person who studies reptiles and amphibians is called a herpetologist. What do you think? Would you like to be a herpetologist? Do you think it would be an interesting job? A dangerous job? A job that helps other people?


I would/wouldnt like to be a herpetologist because                      




(c) 2003