Amphibian vs. Reptile

What's the Difference?

Amphibians and reptiles are both cold-blooded vertebrates, but they have distinct differences in their characteristics and lifestyles. Amphibians, such as frogs and salamanders, have moist, permeable skin that allows them to breathe through their skin and lungs. They typically have a larval stage in water before transitioning to a terrestrial adult form. Reptiles, on the other hand, have dry, scaly skin that helps prevent water loss. They breathe solely through their lungs and do not undergo metamorphosis. Reptiles, including snakes and turtles, are better adapted to life on land and have a wider range of habitats compared to amphibians.


Photo by Wayne Robinson on Unsplash
Body TemperatureVariable (ectothermic)Cold-blooded (ectothermic)
Number of Heart Chambers33 or 4
RespirationGills and lungsLungs
ReproductionEggs (some species have direct development)Eggs (some species give live birth)
Life CycleEgg → Larva → AdultEgg → Hatchling → Juvenile → Adult
LimbsUsually have four limbsUsually have four limbs
Scale TypeSmooth or slimy skinDry, scaly skin
HabitatAquatic and terrestrialTerrestrial
ExamplesFrogs, toads, salamandersTurtles, snakes, lizards
Photo by Nitty Ditty on Unsplash

Further Detail


Amphibians and reptiles are two distinct groups of animals that share some similarities but also have several key differences. Both belong to the class of vertebrates, but they have evolved different adaptations to suit their respective habitats. In this article, we will explore the attributes of amphibians and reptiles, highlighting their unique characteristics and discussing how they differ from one another.

Physical Characteristics

Amphibians and reptiles have distinct physical characteristics that set them apart. Amphibians typically have moist, permeable skin that allows them to breathe through their skin, in addition to lungs or gills. This dual respiratory system enables them to live both in water and on land. In contrast, reptiles have dry, scaly skin that helps prevent water loss and protects them from the environment. They rely solely on lungs for respiration and are primarily terrestrial animals.

Another notable difference is their reproductive strategies. Amphibians generally lay eggs in water, and their young undergo metamorphosis from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adults. Reptiles, on the other hand, lay amniotic eggs on land, which are protected by a leathery or hard shell. Their offspring hatch as miniature versions of the adults, without undergoing any significant metamorphosis.

Habitat and Distribution

Amphibians are typically found in moist environments such as swamps, marshes, and rainforests. They require access to water for breeding and reproduction, as their eggs and larvae are aquatic. However, some amphibians, like the desert-dwelling spadefoot toad, have adapted to arid conditions and can aestivate during dry periods. Reptiles, on the other hand, have a broader range of habitats. They can be found in deserts, grasslands, forests, and even in the ocean. Reptiles are better adapted to arid environments and can conserve water more efficiently than amphibians.

When it comes to distribution, amphibians are more limited in their range compared to reptiles. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, but their diversity is highest in tropical regions. Reptiles, on the other hand, have a more global distribution and can be found on every continent, including Antarctica, where they are represented by the sea-dwelling reptiles like seals and penguins.

Feeding Habits

Amphibians and reptiles have different feeding habits that reflect their physiological and ecological adaptations. Amphibians are primarily carnivorous, feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as insects, worms, and small crustaceans. Some larger amphibians, like the Chinese giant salamander, can even consume small vertebrates like fish and rodents. Reptiles, on the other hand, have a more diverse diet. They can be carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous, depending on the species. Snakes and lizards are often carnivorous, while turtles and tortoises are primarily herbivorous, feeding on plants and vegetation.

Both amphibians and reptiles play important roles in their ecosystems as predators and prey. They contribute to the balance of their respective food chains and help control populations of other organisms. Amphibians, in particular, are considered bioindicators of environmental health due to their sensitivity to pollution and habitat degradation. Their decline in many parts of the world is a cause for concern and highlights the importance of conservation efforts.

Behavior and Adaptations

Amphibians and reptiles have different behavioral and adaptive strategies that allow them to survive in their respective environments. Amphibians are known for their ability to undergo metamorphosis, which enables them to exploit both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. They often have specialized behaviors for breeding, such as elaborate courtship displays and vocalizations. Many amphibians also have the ability to regenerate lost body parts, such as limbs or tails, which is a remarkable adaptation for survival.

Reptiles, on the other hand, have evolved various adaptations to cope with their environments. Some reptiles, like snakes, have developed venomous bites to immobilize their prey or defend themselves from predators. Others, like chameleons, have the ability to change their skin color for camouflage. Reptiles are also ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. They bask in the sun or seek shade to maintain their preferred body temperature, which allows them to conserve energy.


Amphibians and reptiles are fascinating groups of animals with unique attributes and adaptations. While both are vertebrates, they have distinct physical characteristics, reproductive strategies, and habitats. Amphibians are typically found in moist environments, have permeable skin, and undergo metamorphosis, while reptiles are more diverse in their habitats, have dry scaly skin, and lay amniotic eggs. Their feeding habits, behaviors, and adaptations also differ, reflecting their ecological roles and survival strategies. Understanding the attributes of amphibians and reptiles is crucial for appreciating their ecological importance and promoting their conservation in an ever-changing world.

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