In this insightful exploration of types of amphibians, we will delve into the rich biodiversity of this class of creatures, marked by their dual lifestyle in water and on land, ecological significance, and fascinating adaptability. Learn about their characteristics and identify species for each amphibian order as you go through our article.
Amphibians are a class of cold-blooded animals that belong to the group Amphibia and encompasses around 8,450 known species.
However, their ability to live in water and land sets them apart from other vertebrate animals3. Their name came from the Greek words "amphi," meaning "both or of both kinds," and "bios," meaning "life."
Some key characteristics of amphibian species are as follows:
There are three main orders within the class Amphibia:
Fun Fact: Did you know that the American green tree frog is able to change color depending on its surroundings? This allows it to blend in with its environment and avoid predators.
The American Green Tree Frog is famous for its bright green color, which helps it blend in with leaves and trees in its natural habitat. These frogs are quite small, usually 1.5 to 2.5 inches long.
American Green Tree Frogs are primarily active during the night. Despite their small size, these frogs are known for their distinctive and loud call, which they use to attract females.
This frog lives in the southeastern United States, including Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. They prefer wetland areas, swamps, and the edges of ponds and lakes.
Related Read: Tree frog facts.
Fun Fact: Did you know the Red-eyed Tree Frog is not red-eyed when born? Its eyes start brown (during the larval stage) and gradually turn red as it ages.
The Red-eyed Tree Frog has bright green skin, blue and yellow stripes on its sides, and its most iconic feature: large, bright red eyes. These frogs are primarily active during the night, spending their days resting on leaves to avoid predators and excessive sunlight.
Despite their relatively small size (about 2 to 3 inches in length), these frogs are excellent jumpers to escape danger.
Unlike many other amphibians, these frogs lay their eggs on leaves in overhanging water. After hatching, the tadpoles drop into the water below, where the male frogs occasionally return to moisten the eggs to prevent them from drying out.
Poison Dart Frogs are small and brightly colored amphibians in Central and South America. They live in rainforests and lay their eggs on leaves. These frogs typically measure only one to two inches in length.
Their skin contains poison glands2. As a result, indigenous peoples traditionally used their poison to make their hunting darts deadly.
Fun Fact: Did you know that African Bullfrogs can consume prey that is up to 50% of their body weight in a single meal?
The African Bullfrog is a large, bumpy-skinned frog in parts of Africa. They can grow quite big, sometimes reaching the size of a small dinner plate. These frogs have a big appetite and will eat almost anything that fits in their mouth.
This famous amphibian spends much time underground, digging burrows to protect themselves from heat and predators. They also tend to inhabit rainy areas and emerge after heavy rainfall to mate and forage for food.
White Tree Frogs are big and adorable frogs known for their vibrant green color. They can hang out on tree branches. These frogs love to eat insects and other small creatures, which they catch with their long, sticky tongues.
Because of their round and plump bodies, they're often called "dumpy tree frogs" because of their friendly and calm personalities. They can be found in some parts of Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.
The Cane Toad is a hefty amphibian with dry, warty skin that hails primarily from Central and South America. Often found in subtropical environments, it thrives in various habitats, ranging from forests and grasslands to human-dominated areas.
With a body size that could stretch up to 6 inches, this brown-to-grayish-brown toad is easily recognizable by its pronounced parotid glands behind the eyes.
The Cuban Tree Frog is a frog native to Cuba and the surrounding islands. They vary in color and are medium-sized, with round eyes. Their natural habitat is in trees and shrubs, as they are skilled climbers.
They actively hunt for insects and small creatures at night as their food source. They have a diet of various bugs and produce unique sounds to communicate during the mating season.
Furthermore, this type of amphibian is an invasive species in Florida and can negatively impact native wildlife populations.
The wood frog predominantly resides in the cold regions of North America, particularly in boreal forests, tundra edges, and even in the Arctic Circle.
They have a robust build, capped with a dark mask-like marking across their eyes and a light line on their upper lip, bringing to mind a tiny bandit of the forest. Its shades range from tan to dark brown, blending with their ecosystem.
This small but robust type of amphibian is also known for the ridges running alongside its back, adding to its distinctive and easily recognizable appearance.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Monte Iberia Eleuth is the smallest frog in the Northern Hemisphere? These frogs are only about the size of a paperclip and live on the forest floor.
The Monte Iberia Eleuth is one of the tiniest frogs on the planet. They live in Cuba, specifically in the Monte Iberia area. They make their homes on the forest floor, hiding in leaf litter and soil.
Despite their size, they have a loud and bird-like chirping call. Their small size helps them hide from predators and find shelter in their environment. They live among fallen leaves and use them as protection from the elements.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Turtle Frog, also known as the Pig-nosed Frog, got its name from its pig-like snout and ability to retract into its shell like a turtle?
This frog has a unique appearance that resembles a small turtle without its shell. Its head is noticeably tiny, with small eyes and short but strong limbs.
Like Sandhill Frogs, this species moves forward by burrowing through sand, unlike other arid-adapted burrowing frogs, which use their hind feet and descend backward into the soil.
Its back can range from pink to light or dark brown. This frog can grow up to 2 inches in size.
Fun Fact: Did you know the Microhylid Frog is the smallest amphibian? It's smaller than your fingertip!
The Microhylid Frog is the smallest amphibian family. The Papua New Guinean frog species is the world's smallest vertebrate at 0.3 inches in length.
Despite their size, they can produce loud and distinct calls to communicate with each other. These small frogs live in various habitats worldwide, from tropical rainforests to deserts.
Some microhylid frogs have tadpoles that grow inside eggs until they hatch as fully formed frogs, skipping the usual tadpole stage. However, some spend most of their lives underground, emerging only for breeding. Their diet mainly consists of insects and other small invertebrates.
Although not all, some species of this family are endangered frogs.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Goliath Frog is the largest frog on Earth?
The Goliath Frog is the world's largest frog, sometimes growing as big as a small dog! They live in parts of West Africa, particularly in countries like Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. They live in fast-flowing rivers and streams, where they find their food.
Despite their size, they're pretty shy and have a calm nature. Furthermore, these frogs make booming calls that sound like a person snoring. They eat insects, small animals, and even plants that fall into the water.
Fun Fact: Did you know that this Australian frog is named after the distinctive cross-like pattern on its back?
The Holy Cross Frog, also known as the Crucifix Frog, lives in parts of Africa, such as Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. These frogs are active at night and seek shelter daily to remain safe.
They are small in size and can fit in the palm of your hand. Holy Cross Frogs inhabit the soil and leaf litter on the forest floor. Their brownish color allows them to blend into their forest surroundings.
Fun Fact: Did you know that these salamanders can change their color?
The Eastern Tiger Salamander gets its name from the dark stripes on its body that resemble a tiger's stripes. They're one of the larger salamander species, with some adults reaching 8-10 inches long. Eastern Tiger Salamanders can change colors depending on their environment and mood.
They eat insects, worms, and even other amphibians, using their sticky tongues to catch prey. These salamanders can live for many years and undergo a metamorphosis from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adults.
Some populations are considered threatened or endangered. They live in North America, from the Great Lakes region to parts of the southeastern and eastern United States.
Fun Fact: Did you know axolotls can regenerate their limbs, spinal cord, heart, and other organs throughout their lifespan?
Axolotls are unique amphibians that spend their entire lives in water, unlike most that undergo metamorphosis from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adults.
The different types of axolotl come in varying colors like brown, gray, white, and even albino, pale with red eyes. They eat small water creatures like insects, fish, and worms.
Unfortunately, IUCN categorized them as critically endangered amphibians.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Japanese Giant Salamander is one of the largest salamanders in the world, growing up to five feet in length? Despite its size, it's a gentle creature that feeds on fish, frogs, and insects.
The Japanese Giant Salamander is one of the largest amphibians on Earth, reaching lengths of up to 5 feet or even more! These salamanders live in cool, fast-flowing rivers and streams in Japan, preferring clean, clear water.
They have rough and wrinkled skin that helps them absorb oxygen from the water. Japanese Giant Salamanders are considered living fossils because they've been almost unchanged for a long time.
These types of amphibians are primarily active at night, hunting for prey like fish, insects, and small animals. They can live in the wild for several decades, sometimes over 50 years.
Fun Fact: Did you know Fire Salamanders had their name after their orange markings resembling flames?
Fire salamanders have striking black skin with bright yellow or orange markings. However, this colorful skin carries toxins. Fire salamanders are most active at night and prefer damp, cool environments.
These salamanders are known to stick to their favorite habitats and might even return to the same place every year1.
They eat insects, worms, and small creatures using long, sticky tongues. Fire salamanders live across Europe, in forests, near ponds and mountains. Instead of laying eggs like many other amphibians, they give birth to fully developed young.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian in the world, reaching lengths of up to 6 feet?
The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian species in the world, growing even longer than an average person. It lives in rivers and streams in China, preferring clean and cool water.
Unfortunately, they are considered critically endangered because of habitat loss and excessive hunting. In the past, some people in China used them in traditional medicine.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Congo Caecilian is a legless amphibian living in the temperate regions of Central Africa? They can grow up to 5 feet long and are known for their unique ability to burrow through the soil with their strong, muscular bodies.
The Congo Caecilian looks like a snake and spends most of its life underground, digging tunnels in the soil with its tough, shovel-like head. Congo Caecilians have tiny eyes that can't see much, as they don't need them in the dark underground world.
Their skin secretes a slimy substance that helps them move through the soil quickly. They have tentacle-like structures on their head that help them sense vibrations and chemicals in the soil.
These amphibians feed on small animals they find while burrowing, like insects and worms. Since they live underground, they might be impacted by changes in their habitat, making their conservation important.
Ringed Caecilian looks like a long, slimy worm. Its skin can absorb oxygen, allowing it to breathe even when buried in the ground.
It spends most of its life underground, burrowing in soil and mud. Unlike frogs or salamanders, it doesn't have arms or legs. It moves by using its body and muscles to wriggle around.
Ringed Caecilians have small eyes that don't work well, as they don't need to see much in the dark underground. When they're born, the young caecilians have tiny teeth that help them eat immediately.
Caspers, B. A., Junge, C., Weitere, M., & Steinfartz, S. (2009). Habitat adaptation rather than genetic distance correlates with female preference in fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra). Frontiers in Zoology, 6(1).
Jw, D., Si, S., Hm, G., Tf, S., Wisnieski, A., & Jf, C. (1994b). An uptake system for dietary alkaloids in poison frogs (Dendrobatidae). Toxicon, 32(6), 657–663.
Netherlands, E. C. (2019). Field Guide to the Frogs & other Amphibians of Africa. African Journal of Herpetology.
Chinny Verana is a degree-qualified marine biologist and researcher passionate about nature and conservation. Her expertise allows her to deeply understand the intricate relationships between marine life and their habitats.
Her unwavering love for the environment fuels her mission to create valuable content for TRVST, ensuring that readers are enlightened about the importance of biodiversity, sustainability, and conservation efforts.
Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.