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Ministry of Environment

Amphibian Ecology

Red-legged frog (Rana aurora)

What are amphibians and why are we watching them?

Amphibians are a class of vertebrate animals (i.e., with a backbone) that have a characteristic two-stage life cycle. The name amphibian comes from the Greek amphi- (two) and bios (life). Present-day amphibians include anurans (frogs and toads), salamanders, and caecilians; there are about 6000 species in the world, mainly anurans.

The fossil record shows that some of the first vertebrate land animals were amphibians; they were not the same species as today's amphibians, but they lived in the same way. Some were very large – imagine a six-foot salamander! Learn about their biology, the reasons for the declines of amphibians and about the emerging global epidemic caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

Some people confuse reptiles for amphibians. Reptiles evolved much after amphibians, adapting to life in drier environments by developing, among other things, scales on their skin and shells on their eggs. Reptiles include snakes and lizards.

» Learn more about reptiles in B.C.

Photo © Russ Haycock. No reproduction or distribution without permission.