Amphibians and reptiles

On land and in water

Author: Birgit Beckers
Author: Birgit Beckers

A life on both sides

Amphibians are the phylogenetically oldest group of land vertebrates. They have made the transition from water to land in the course of evolution, but still remain closely linked to the water. The name "Amphib" comes from the Greek and means " both kinds of life", i.e. life on land and in water. In Germany, probably the best-known representative of the 21 occurring amphibian species is the Fire Salamander, which was popularised by the childrens' cartoon character "Lurchi". In accordance with the body form, amphibians are divided into tailed (salamanders, newts) and tailless (frogs, toads).

Characteristics of amphibians include a thin skin containing many mucous glands, metamorphosis (transformation) of larvae, and some skeletal reductions, such as the missing thumb of the forelimb.

As amphibians are ectothermic ("cold-blooded") creatures, they usually feel clammy. To avoid drying up, they spend their lives in damp places, avoid the sun and are predominantly nocturnal. They lay their jellylike eggs in water because they would dry up on land. In a few species, such as the Fire Salamander, the eggs develop in the body and the female deposits the larvae into a body of water just as they hatch.

In contrast to amphibians, the reptiles are not dependent on moisture. They all have a horny skin that protects them from drying out. Their eggs also generally have a hard shell. Since reptiles are cold-blooded, they often bask in the sun in order to reach their correct "operating temperature".

Our 14 native species of reptiles include lizards, snakes and turtles. Common to all is a dry body surface covered with horny scales. As the top layer of skin does not grow with the animal, reptiles have to shed or moult it regularly. Many species eat the old skin after shedding it, but snakes shed their skin in one piece and leave it, turned inside out like a discarded sock, often tangled between objects or plant stems.

Although lizards are, at first glance, quite similar to the tailed amphibians, they have thumbs on their front limbs.

Since both amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded creatures, they hibernate in winter and can therefore only be observed between spring and autumn.

European Tree Frog

The noisy tree climber

Crested Newt

Our largest but rarest species of newt

Yellow-bellied Toad

Threatened with extinction

Midwife Toad

The emancipated toad with beautiful eyes

Fire Salamander

With a yellow-and-black warning costume

Common Frog and Common Toad

Our most numerous species

Slow Worm and Smooth Snake

A real snake and a false one