What Are Amphibians?

The name “amphibian” comes from a Greek word which means “living a double life”. Most amphibians spend the early part of their lives in the water and the later part on land. There are three groups, or orders, of amphibians.

They are the frogs and toads, the salamanders: Caecillians are burrowing animals that have no legs or tail and are blind. There are more than 1,040 species of amphibians. All are less than one meters long, except the giant salamander of Japan, which may grow to 1,5 meters in length.

Most of the amphibians are neither strong nor quick, though frogs can move fairly fast. The large majority are protected mainly by their retiring habits and their colouring.

In addition, practically all amphibians are able to secrete poison in their skin glands, which is their best defence against enemies. In adult life, most amphibians usually have lungs, but they also breathe through their skin.

Amphibians are usually found only in hot and temperate climates. They generally cannot live in salt water. Although typical adult amphibians live on land, they return to the water for the mating season.

There the eggs are laid and fertilized, and there the young pass the first part of their lives as fishlike larvae, feeding mostly on vegetable material. A few amphibians have developed strange methods of taking care of their eggs.
The female of a certain Brazilian tree frog builds a nest of mud for her eggs while the male sits by and croaks. The Surinam toad hatches her eggs on her back.

Amphibians that leave their eggs unprotected in the water usually lay hundreds at a time, joined in bands or masses by a gluey substance. Those that take care of their eggs lay fewer of them.

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