Reptiles vs. Amphibians (Major Differences And Similarities To Know)

When it comes to the world’s fauna, we simply can’t stay indifferent to its wonders. For instance, amphibians are fascinating animals, mainly due to their dual lives. They live in the water for a long period of time, while the other half is for land survival. Their skin is porous, which requires a lot of moisture during their existence.

On the other hand, reptiles are a group of animals living only on land; they breathe through the lungs and multiply by eggs. Reptiles have some scales on their body and live to retain moisture. So, at first glance, the main difference between reptiles and amphibians is their physical appearance and lifestyle.

However, during the study of the animal kingdom, people have found a lot of similarities between these two species. This was the main reason why researchers didn’t establish correct zoological classification between them. While their camouflage for protection, identical features, and ectothermic (cold-blooded) bodies are similar, there are many differences between reptiles and amphibians.

Biologists found that reptiles supposedly descended from amphibians millions of years ago. Amphibians turned to be reptiles due to the change in the environment and the natural evolutionary process. These animals are also thought to have similarities with fishes and terrestrial snakes. As such, science considers amphibians to have migrated from sea to land.

Now, another thing that you should know about this topic is that there is a special zoology branch that studies both amphibians and reptiles. The work of these scientists is continuous.

Thus, let’s discover what science has to say about the main differences between reptiles and amphibians along with some interesting similarities between the two species.

Set of cold-blooded reptilesSet of cold-blooded reptiles
Credit: Coachella Valley Preserve

Basic Comparison: Amphibians Vs. Reptiles

I suggest we take it slow and go through each interesting part step by step.


Amphibians are cold-blooded animals, ectothermic, that are living on both land and in water. To breathe, Amphibians use gills while they stay under the water and lungs when on land.

On the other hand, reptiles are also ectothermic animals with cold blood that are mainly living on land. The reptiles can be oviparous or viviparous.

Main Habitat

As previously mentioned, amphibians live in the aquatic world. However, they can quickly adapt to the land environment. During the larval stage, they spend their time in the water. During adulthood, they stay on the land. (Examples of Amphibians: frogs, Salamanders, Toads, etc.)

Looking at reptiles, it is easy to say that they are terrestrial animals. However, some of them you may know, like turtles, crocodiles, or alligators, prefer the water living as well. (Examples: Crocodiles, Lizards, Snakes.)

Also Read: What Do Crocodiles Eat? How Do These Large Semi-Aquatic Reptiles Feed?


Amphibians are creatures that multiply through eggs, meaning the baby embryos develop step by step inside the egg. Eventually, the eggs are hatched outside the mother’s body. The fertilization process is external.

Reptiles can be either oviparous, or viviparous. This means the embryos will develop inside the mother’s womb. The fertilization is internal.

Let’s dig into more details about the reproductive system of these two species. Now, the most significant difference between reptiles and amphibians is how they fecundate and enter this world:

  • Amphibians are hatched from those gelatinous eggs that their mothers lay in or somewhere close to the water. The physical form of Amphibians has three stages during their development, and the first one is, obviously, the egg. Mother Amphibians are making their best to lay their eggs where they find large masses in ponds; they also prefer stagnant bodies of water as the eggs’ shelter.

Some of the rainforest species of Amphibians will lay their eggs in the water throughout the year, while other ones breed at the exact time once a year in mass. Right into the eggs, some tiny tadpoles will start developing and break all free.

  • Reptiles are born live or are conceived from hard-shelled eggs. Even at their very first breath, reptiles are tiny, miniature versions of their adult parents. As such, reptiles are more intelligent and they can start chasing or hiding from the first days of their lives. Reptiles are prepared for life’s challenges right from the moment they come into this world.


Reptiles are different from amphibians due to their skin as well. The structure, moisture, and biology of their skin are not the same at all.

  • Reptiles have thin and quite delicate skin, all covered in some durable protective scales. The scales have a lot of keratin, just like our fingernails and hair have. Scales are like a reptile’s defense shield and protect the animals from predators, and rough terrains reptiles live in. Moreover, scales are the main factor that absorbs the hot sun rays and protects their body from desert-dwelling species.
  • On the opposite pole, Amphibians come with either rough, dry skin or some smooth slim skin. For instance, the larval amphibians, like salamanders, frogs, or caecilians, have slimy skin, very soft at the first touch.

But when it comes to dry, rough skin, newts and adult toads have crispy skin. Amphibians can breathe all through the skin but in a passive way. The skin breathing goes along with the active breathing through the lungs. The mucus on the skin is essential, and the wax Amphibians secrete on their slimy skin. Both wax and slime are the main factors that help the skin have natural moisture which is necessary for the oxygen transfer to the blood cells.

Other Interesting Differences

  • Amphibians breathe in both ways, so their body features both lungs and gills. Reptiles can breathe only through their lungs;
  • Amphibians cannot see specific colors, due to the fact that their eyes have color restrictions; as such, these animals cannot see the whole shade spectrum;

Reptiles can see and distinguish colors; actually, most reptiles are tetrachromats, meaning they have four types of cones; humans have fewer, meaning only 3, which are blue, green, and red. As such, reptiles can see all the rainbow colors that humans can see and even more.

  • Amphibians’ heart is a three-chambered one;

Reptiles also have the same type of heart; however, the ventricle is more divided through a certain septum;

  • Amphibians secret toxins through their skin; this is their primary defense against predators;

Reptiles have some hard scales for their protection all through their skin; furthermore, snakes can produce toxins through their teeth and nails;

  • The skin of amphibians is sticky, moist and smooth, but comes with porous parts that are meant for various functions;

Reptiles, on the other hand, have dehydrated skin that is hard and scaly so that it can protect them;

  • Amphibians lay their eggs in water and also protect them with a layer of gel;

Reptiles lay their eggs on the land and cover them as well with a protective layer.

  • Amphibians have webbed feet, which are essential in helping them to swim and jump all around;

Most reptiles have four limbs, which are the most significant feature for running or swimming; however, there are also reptiles such as snakes that do not have limbs, so they crawl;

Similarities Between Amphibians And Reptiles

Now that we know the main differences between amphibians and reptiles, let’s move on to the similarities between these species.

  • First of all, you can find these two types of animals worldwide and in the same places in most cases.
  • Both reptiles and amphibians have cold blood, which translates into exothermicity. This means they don’t need to create and maintain the specific internal body temperature that warm-blood animals usually do. Reptiles fluctuate their temperature by simply using their external actions, such as basking. This particularity makes reptiles a bit more different than amphibians and makes them more poikilothermic. On the flip side, amphibians would rarely lie under sunlight because the hot light will immediately dry out their skin;
  • With minor exceptions, all these creatures have lungs; however, some can breathe through their skin or gas exchange.
  • Just like birds, amphibians and reptiles all have cloacal chambers. The cloaca serves for some of the essential organism’s apparatus, like intestinal, urinary, and reproductive ones.
  • Last but not least, both reptiles and amphibians have the heart divided into three chambers. The only exception is crocodiles, and they have four chambers.

The Toxic Compounds – Not Negative, Just Poisonous

One of the main similarities and most crucial defense methods for reptiles and amphibians is the toxic compounds. yet, the delivery method is different, and the two species use toxins differently.

When it comes to reptiles, most of us would think about venomous snakes. And we are perfectly right. Most of the serpents that have venom are venomous snakes. However, some lizards have venom as well. Venom is one of the scariest liquids in this world, a toxic substance that contains proteins and which is stored in the head glands of a snake or a venomous lizard.

Some of the most venomous snakes are vipers, cobras, or colubrids. However, Gila monsters, Komodo dragons, or beaded lizards are also evil.

Researchers have found that venomous compounds in the saliva of lizards or other species might have medical properties. Thus, the evidence is unclear yet.

Reptiles are using their venom so they can kill or subdue prey items. However, some reptiles can even spill the poison into their predator’s eyes. Some snakes are not poisonous from the birth instance. What they do is absorb the poison into the skin so they can protect themselves.

While reptiles keep poison in their glands, amphibians carry the venom exclusively into their skin. Whether we talk about Poison Arrow Frogs or the classic American Toads, all amphibians keep their toxins into their skin.

You can recognize the most toxic Amphibians by their bright colors. These bright shades will tell the predators that these animals are very poisonous and should stay away from them.

While Amphibians will keep the poison in their skin to keep the predators away from them, reptiles use the poison to subdue prey.

So many similarities, but so different species

Now that we know most of the facts about Amphibians and Reptiles, it’s time to draw some conclusions. Both of the species are ectothermic and vertebrates. Moreover, they are even biologically similar.

However, the Amphibians and Reptiles are pretty different, although they share very similar habitats.

Both types of animals have evolved through time and adapted their way of living to the microhabitats they live on. Humans have to help these animals conserve their lives and reduce the harmful impact on their environment from now on.

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