The Amphibia includes the well‐known frogs, toads, salamanders and newts. They are ectothermic, quadrupedal vertebrates with a glandular skin, and a life cycle, in modern species, characterized by the metamorphosis of an aquatic larva into a terrestrial adult. They evolved from lobe‐finned fish in the Devonian and early amphibians are the ancestors of the amniotes.

Keywords: amphibians; frogs; toads; salamanders; newts

Figure 1.

Systems used in terrestrial amphibian respiration. Anuran outline illustrated, but similar mechanisms operate in all the living orders. (There is some overlap in the opening of nares and glottis so that during part of the lung ventilation cycle they are open simultaneously).

Figure 2.

Some of the radical changes occurring during the metamorphosis of an anuaran, Rana temporaria.

Figure 3.

Fossil history of the Amphibia.


Further Reading

Beebee TJC (1996) Ecology and Conservation of Amphibians. London: Chapman and Hall.

Duellman WE and Trueb L (1994) Biology of Amphibians. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Feder ME and Burggren WW (eds) (1992) Environmental Physiology of the Amphibians. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goin CJ, Goin OB and Zug GR (1978) Introduction to Herpetology, 3rd edn. San Francisco: WH Freeman.

Oldham RS (1999) Amphibians and agriculture: double jeopardy. In: Whitfield M, Matthews J and Reynolds C (eds) Aquatic Life Cycle Strategies. Survival in a Variable Environment, pp. 105–124. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association.

Pechmann JHK and Wilbur HM (1994) Putting declining amphibian populations in perspective: natural fluctuations and human impacts. Herpetologica 50: 65–84.

Porter KR (1972) Herpetology. Philadelphia: WB Saunders.

Pough FH, Heiser JB and McFarland WM (1989) Vertebrate Life, 3rd edn. New York: Macmillan.

Wake MH (1982) Diversity within a framework of constraints. Amphibian reproductive modes. In: Mossakowski D and Roth G (eds) Environmental Adaptation and Evolution, pp. 87–106. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer.

Zug GR (1993) Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. New York: Academic Press.

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How to Cite close
Oldham, Robert S(May 2001) Amphibia. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001536]