Back to Basics- Reptiles & Amphibians

Back to Basics- Reptiles & Amphibians

We are on our last day of learning the basics on the groups! We have much more to learn! Today Professor Carl the Chameleon is catching everyone up on reptiles and amphibians.



Let’s learn some reptile basics first and then more about our amphibian friends.

There are around 7,984 reptile species on earth. Reptiles first appeared on earth around 340 million years ago. The largest group of reptiles is lizards. You can find us on most continents except Antarctica. You can even find some of us in the worlds’ oceans.

What makes a reptile a reptile?

  • We are covered in scales.
  • We lay eggs.
  • We are ectothermic.
  • We have lungs for breathing.
  • We are vertebrates.


Our scales cover our epidermis and they are made of keratin. When we grow we shed our scales. Some of us do this in pieces and some of us, like snakes- shed their whole layer at once.

Turtles, tortoises, crocodiles and most lizards have movable eyelids. Snakes have a fixed clear eye covering that they shed when they grow too.

Most reptiles have poor hearing and none of us can taste.

Snakes and some lizards have a forked tongue that they “smell” with. They pick up scent molecules with their tongue and use an organ in their brain called the Jacobson’s organ to analyze those molecules.

sea turtle

Most reptiles lay their eggs and leave them. They provide no parental care for their young.  There are some reptiles that incubate their eggs inside their body and give birth to live young.  The crocodilian family and a few lizards to protect their eggs and young.





Now let’s talk some about our amphibian friends.

There are around 5,000 species of amphibians. They have been around for 370 million years.  There are three groups of amphibians; newts/salamander, frogs/toads and caecilians.

The word amphibian means dual life. They live a life in the water (usually as young) and then on land (usually as adults).

What makes an amphibian an amphibian?

  • We are ectothermic.
  • We are vertebrates.
  • We breathe through our skin.
  • We go through metamorphosis. We do not look the same as young as we do as adults.

Amphibian young use gills to breathe. Young frogs and toads are called tadpoles and they have tails and no legs.

We have no scales and no hair. Our skin can absorb water and we need water to keep it moist, this helps us breathe. We all have poison glands in our skin!

Adult amphibians have lungs, but we do not have rib cages. We can also absorb oxygen through our skin and through the lining of our mouth.

Most amphibians deposit eggs in water. We can lay anywhere from 2 to 50,000 eggs.



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Give That Frog a Glass of Water

Give That Frog a Glass of Water

We had no internet yesterday! Darn-it! Well we spent that extra time looking for an unusual amphibian who calls the desert home! The water holding frog is soooo cool!

water holding frog







Date: 4/7

Location: Great Victorian Desert

Water Holding Frog Fun Facts:

  • They have webbed toes.
  • Water holding frogs live underground.


  • When they bury themselves, they cocoon themselves in a mucus to protect themselves.
  • Water holding frogs eat that mucus when they emerge from their dormant state.
  • Water holding frogs can hold water in their bladder and send it back to their mouths to drink. They can also store in pockets under their skin!
  • They come out of their sandy burrows to mate during rainy season.

Woohoo! Animals have the neatest adaptation ever! Even if they seem kind of gross! Hehehehe!

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Old Bright Eyes!

Old Bright Eyes!

We spent our last day at camp this week looking for a small amphibian with big bright eyes. Good thing we have binoculars, because spotting these tiny frogs was not easy!









Date: 3/23

Location: Madagascar

Green bright-eyed frog fun facts:

  • Green bright eyed frogs have a blue ring around the outer iris.
  • They are green with little spots and can change their color to a more reddish tone.
  • Green bright eyed frogs have webbed feet.


  • During breeding season males call during the night to look for a mate.
  • Females lay their eggs in water.








We had lovely time exploring the forest for these tiny frogs. So many sightings of them and other fascinating creatures! We really love this place!


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Don’t Eat That Tomato

Don’t Eat That Tomato

We went exploring in the forest last night. We were looking for a brightly colored frog. It’s been a while since we went on the hunt for amphibians, so it was a treat to find these guys. They weren’t hard to find, since it’s still frog breeding season and these little chippers are loud!

tomato frog2







Date: 3/13

Location: Madagascar

Tomato Frog Fun Facts:

  • Tomato frogs are bright orange or red.
  • They are brightly colored to warn predators that they are toxic. They secrete a white substance that acts like a glue.
  • Tomato frogs can also inflate when threatened.
  • They are ambush predators.


  • Tomato frog tadpoles are only 6 millimeters long when born!
  • Tomato frogs can live up to 8 years.

tomato frog3

tomato frog






Tomato frogs are near threatened due to habitat loss and collection of frogs for the pet trade. While frogs make neat pets, it is best to get one from a breeder. Taking animals from the wild damages delicate ecosystems. Keep these tomatoes in the forest.







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Hellooooo Big Amphibian!

Hellooooo Big Amphibian!

We went in search of the Coastal Giant Salamander today. It was such fun looking around the woods. We spotted all kinds of critters, insects and such too. We also saw fungus and other kinds of plants. There was so much to see, but the star of the show was the salamander.








Date: 11/29

Location: Pacific Northwest Temperate rainforest

  • Coastal giant salamanders has four toes on the front feet and five toes on the back feet.
  • They dig small burrows during the rainy season.
  • Coastal giant salamanders are known to eat small rodents.
  • Coastal giant salamanders are vocal. They can bark and growl.
  • They live in streams while they are still larva.


  • Adults have a marbled coloration.
  • Some adults live their whole lives in water and keep their external gills.


Salamanders are amazing creatures. It fascinates us that not all of them live on land as adults. There are so many wonders in nature! We just love each and every one of them.

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Another Newt

Another Newt

We headed back to our main camp by the rainforest to find a very small animal compared to large bears we meet yesterday! We discovered this little amphibian under some rocks and leaves. We did the happy  dance when we met the rough skinned newt!









Date: 11/14

Location: Temperate Rainforest


  • Rough skinned newts have rough, bumpy skin as implied by their name.
  • They are brownish-black in color with yellow to orange bellies.
  • Rough skinned newts feed at night.


  • Rough skinned newts toxin is similar to the toxin that puffer fish produce.
  • They can live as long as 12 years!
  • The common garter snake is the rough skinned newt’s only predator. The snakes have developed immunity to their toxin.


These toxic little amphibians are definitely cute! We had fun looking for them in the rainforest! Of course, it was a look don’t touch expedition for sure though!


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Tree Frog Fun!

Tree Frog Fun!

We headed out with our night vision goggles the day after spotting elk. We had to wait and listen to find the tree dwelling amphibians we were in search for! We spotted those cute little frogs and learned more about them.



Date: 11/8

Location: Pacific Norhtwest

  • Pacific Tree Frogs vary in color, from brown to tan to grey.
  • Individual frogs can even change color, when they are threatened.
  • Pacific tree frogs have sticky pads on their toes to help them climb. These frogs do tend to spend more time on the ground though.
  • These frogs are famous for their call. If you hear a frog call on tv on in the movies, it is most likely that of a pacific tree frog.


  • The pacific tree frog is the state frog in Washington state.
  • Male pacific tree frogs have dark throat pouches.
  • They are nocturnal.


We had fun sitting in the forest listening to the frogs sing. It is so peaceful. Edmond even dozed off while we sat there! Hehehehe!

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We Call a Spade a Spadefoot!

We Call A Spade A Spadefoot!







We slept in after looking for great horned owls. During the day we met a herpetologist and we went looking for frogs and toads. We found the cutest little toads- called the Great Basin Spadefoot.

Date 11/3

Location: Pacific Northwest

  • Great Basin Spadefoots have warty skin.
  • They produce a toxin and it is used to ward off predators.
  • Great basin spadefoots can vary from brown to grey to olive in color.


  • Great basin spadefoots have spade on their front feet to help them dig in the ground.
  • They come out at night to absorb moisture from the air.
  • They are dormant in the fall and winter.



We were lucky to spot some toads as fall is setting in and these amphibians are heading in their dens for the season. They live off their fat stores while they are their! NEAT!

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A Frog You Can See Through

A Frog You Can See Through








Date: 9/27

Location: Cloud forest

  • Northern glass frogs like other glass frogs have clear or transparent skin on their bellies.
  • The top of the Northern glass frog is a pale green.


  • They have yellow suction pads on their toes for gripping and yellow irises in their eyes.
  • Northern glass frogs are also known as the Fleischmann’s glass frog.
  • They are nocturnal.
  • Female glass frogs lay eggs under a leaf over running water. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles fall into the water to develop.
  • Males guard the eggs until they hatch.
  • They are arboreal.


It was not easy to climb high up in to the cloud forest today, but it was worth it. Edmond kept saying he wished we’d had frogs to eat all the bugs in our group. Professor Carl did eat a few!  We’ll need heavier mud to cover ourselves next time. But after our long, bug-filled hike, we spotted those cute little frogs. It was totally exciting. 

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There’s a Tiger in the Woods!

There’s a Tiger in the Woods!

Did you ever wonder how Lake Salamander got its name? Well it was named after one of its most famous inhabitants! Tiger salamanders live all over the area. Because of their beauty and abundance, it was decided that the lake would be named Lake Salamander!

tiger salamander3

Let’s meet these cute little critters!

Tiger Salamander Fun Facts:

  • Tiger salamanders are found in the middle of North America; from Canada to Mexico.
  • They can grow up to 14″ long (most are around 8″) and weigh up to 4 oz (about the weight of a deck of cards).
  • Tiger salamanders are carnivores! They eat frogs, insects and worms.
  • They are listed as least concern by the IUCN.
  • Tiger salamanders get their name from the stripes on their bodies that resemble the stripes of a tiger.
  • Not all tiger salamanders have stripes though. Some have spots or no markings at all.

tiger salamander

  • They live in deep burrows. Most never leave the burrows except to mate or feed.
  • Tiger salamanders are nocturnal.
  • They lay their eggs in water and in the area where they were born. Sometimes they must travel to reach their birthplace.
  • They are related to the axololt! Their larval stage (not full adult) looks like the axololt- with outside gills.
  • Tiger salamanders can live up to 16 years in the wild.
  • They can regenerate their limbs if lost.

tiger salamander2


Tiger salamanders are amazing creatures. Some never reach full adult stage and live their whole lives as larva! Amphibians are so awesome! We’ll be sure to have a class on amphibian live phases at the University in the fall- there is so much to learn! Woohoo!

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