Amphibians and Reptiles
You know them as frogs, toads, snakes, turtles and lizards. Get acquainted with all of Missouri's fascinating “herps,” including 43 amphibians and 75 species and subspecies of reptiles.
Amphibians, which include salamanders, newts, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals (in the phylum Chordata) that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They are ectothermal (or cold-blooded), which means that they do not produce their own body heat like birds, people or other mammals. They remain the same temperature as their surroundings and seek out cooler or warmer spots to avoid temperatures too high or too low for their survival.
Missouri has 43 species of amphibians, with an additional five subspecies or geographic races. No amphibians in Missouri are venomous — they are harmless to people. The color and variety of salamanders and the calls of toads and frogs in spring and summer help make our outdoors a fun and lively place to be.
Like amphibians, reptiles are vertebrates (in the phylum Chordata) and most are ectothermal. Reptiles evolved from salamander-like creatures about 315 million years ago. Unlike amphibians, reptiles do not have to live part of their life in water. Early reptiles were the first vertebrates to produce shelled eggs that protected their eggs from drying as they developed. So, reptiles are able to live in dry habitats where amphibians can not survive.
Missouri has 75 species and subspecies of reptiles: 17 different turtles, 11 different lizards, and 47 different species and subspecies of snakes. Only five snake species are venomous to people. Most are shy and normally avoid people.