Unless you are a herpetologist, or someone who studies reptiles and amphibians, trying to tell the difference between amphibians and reptiles can be tricky; the two are usually (incorrectly) interchangeable. In fact, reptiles and amphibians were once classified as the same due to their similarities, and they belong to the same phylum.
However, several characteristics separate them into two classes: reptilian and amphibia. These characteristics range from physical appearances to reproduction.
The biggest difference between amphibians and reptiles is that amphibians can live on both land and in water; this is known as dual lives. Amphibian offspring typically spend their childhood in the water and their adulthood on land. The parents usually lay soft eggs in the water. Young amphibians undergo a process called metamorphosis to transition into adulthood.
Amphibians are noted for having gills and lungs. They don’t have scales; instead, they have semi-permeable porous skin that requires moisture, hence their dual life in water. They usually have short limbs and webbed feet that are perfect for swimming and jumping. Types of amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians.
From their dinosaur ancestors, reptiles consist of alligators, crocodiles, caimans, gavials, lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises. Their skin is covered in dry scales, and most reptiles have claws. Reptiles breathe air through their lungs. When it comes time to lay eggs, they usually lay hard-shelled eggs on land that are covered in an amniotic sac.
Once the offspring is born, it breaks out of the egg and goes through several series of skin shedding to reach adulthood. Reptiles spend the majority of their lives on land, though some can spend time in the water.
Amphibian and Reptile Similarities
As I said earlier, there are many similarities between the two classes. Both are cold-blooded, or ectothermic. They are vertebrates, which means they have a spine. Most amphibians and reptiles are omnivores and have four legs and a tail.
The biggest similarity is the range of defensive tactics. The main one is camouflage, but amphibians and reptiles are also known for biting, playing dead, receding into a shell, hissing, releasing toxins, tail whipping and more – anything to not get eaten!