What’s the Difference Between Amphibians and Reptiles?

The differences between reptiles and amphibians is stark. This week at Backwater Reptiles, we received a lot of new frogs, toads, and salamanders and that got us to thinking that maybe this blog article should discuss what makes an amphibian an amphibian and what makes a reptile a reptile. Although most reptile hobbyists know the differences between the two, some people have got to be curious as to what separates a salamander from a skink, right?

clown tree frog

In general, it’s easy to just say that frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders are all classified as amphibians, but you can read on to learn why these animals are different than reptiles.

asian spiny toad

The main indicator that an animal is an amphibian is that it “lives two lives” or has two distinct life phases. Amphibians are born in water and breathe through gills, then undergo metamorphosis and become full-grown animals that survive on land. Take a frog for example – they come into this world as tadpoles swimming around in ponds or pools of water and eventually grow into mature frogs. Reptiles, however, will be born as miniature forms of themselves and, aside from possibly displaying different markings as juveniles, should look the same their entire life.

slimy salamander

Reptiles don’t need to live near water, whereas amphibians need to live where water is present for two reasons. First, their skin needs to stay moist. Second, amphibians lay their eggs in or very near water.

Amphibians externally fertilize their eggs whereas reptiles internally fertilize. Amphibian eggs are usually found in a gelatinous clump in or near water, while reptile eggs are leathery, amniotic, and often buried for the gestation period.

eastern spadefoot toad

Finally, there are also aesthetic differences you can observe if you are not familiar with the animal’s life cycle. Reptiles possess scales, whereas amphibians have moist, sometimes sticky skin. Reptiles have claws to defend themselves from threats, but an amphibian’s main defense mechanisms are irritating secretions from the skin or biting because they don’t have nails.

golden tree frogs

This entry is not all inclusive as we could easily write an entire essay dedicated to this topic. It’s simply meant to touch on the main differences between reptiles and amphibians and to provide the basics for beginners.

All animals pictured in this blog post are amphibians for sale on our website.