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Three Types of Amphibians: An Introduction

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Published: Thu, 05 Apr 2018

Amphibia

Key features of amphibians:

Amphibian means “double life” which is why they can live in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.They live in water as larvae; however live on land when they are adults. They have moist skin (mucous glands); however lack scales and claws. They have Pedicellate teeth and the process of respiration takes places directly through the skin. They also have a green rod which is a main component of the retina.

Common name

Latin name

Key adaptations:

White lined gecko

Gekko vittatus

This species has sticky toes that allow for climbing up smooth surfaces such as walls. They have thick skin, as in the wild, they live in deserts and forests. They are nocturnal; therefore, their eyes are adapted to a low level of light.

Fire bellied toad

Bombina

They have bumpy skin, eyes on top of their heads and have webbed toes. The skin of the toad is known to be toxic to some other animals and humans, which is an adaptation for protection from predators. They have a long sticky tongue which grabs onto prey (insects) and pulls it into their open mouth.

Western green toad

Anaxyrus debilis (old name Bufo debilis)

They can flatten their self against the ground if they feel threatened as they have a flat body and head. They are nocturnal ground dwellers and have numerous warts on their dorsal surface. They have large parotoid glands which are distinctly separated.

Horned frog

Ceratophrys ornata

They are voracious eaters, which means that they have a wide mouth and eat large amount of food. They burrow into muddy vegetation and leaf litter on the tropical forest floor, which makes them well disguised.

Peacock tree frog

Leptopelis vermiculatus

They have two different colour phases; one phase being bright green

with dispersed black specks over the dorsal surface. While the other

phase they are irregular shaped and brown in colour. They have large

toe pads which are used for climbing and they have an adhesive disc on

their digits.

Additional comments:

There are three types of amphibians;

  • Urodele (tailed with limited metamorphosis)
  • Anuran (tailless and no scales)
  • Apoda (limbless)

Reptilia

Key features of reptilians:

Reptiles have a strong, bony skeleton and they have claws, which are used for digging. They are usually found in warmer parts of the world and they are most tetrapods, meaning that they have four limbs. They are cold-blooded, which means that they cannot their internal body temperatures. They have protective scales on their skin and they lay hard-shelled eggs which means that they are amniotes.

Common name

Latin name

Key adaptations:

Leopard tortoise

Stigmochelys pardalis

They can retract their head and shell when they are threatened and they have a mouth which is a “beak”. They have a rear trunk like legs and the front legs are paddle shaped. They can move pretty quick on those legs and move over rocky terrain efficiently. They can also go underwater for up to ten minutes and they can climb in certain circumstances.

African spurred tortoise

Centrochelys sulcata

It is the largest tortoise of the African mainland. It has a sandy colouration meaning that it is well camouflaged; having a brown carapace and thick golden skin. In the natural habitat they excavate burrows in the ground (dig) to places with higher moisture levels, which is known as aestivation.

Spectacled caiman

Caiman crocodilus

They have a diverse range of adaptions for aquatic life. They have long snouts and closable nostrils at the tip of the snout. They also have a slight webbing on their feet, a propulsive tail for use in the water and eyes on top of their head.

Red eared slider

Trachemys scripta elegans

They have long foreclaws and have high domed shell with a keel going down the centre. They also have long nails on their forelimbs and retractable heads; used when they are threatened. They are poikilotherms; which means that they not able to regulate their body temperatures independently. This means that they are entirely dependent on the temperature of their environment.

Reticulated python

Python reticulatus

They are cold blooded and they live in warm tropical climates; to keep their blood warm all year round. They are nocturnal; which means that they are active at night. They have around 100 teeth that all curve towards the back of the mouth; having the ability to unhinge its jaw and consume their prey entirely whole.

Blue spiny lizard

Sceloporus serrifer

They have a homodont dentition which means that they have all of the same pointed type of tooth. They have large pointed scales, which may be used to deter some predators. Also they have a tail which can break off as a way of escaping from a predator.

Bearded dragon

Pagona

They have a “beard”; which can appear larger to predators to scare them away. The beard has an inflatable area on its neck that can be altered to a black colour; this adds a lot to its defence abilities. They are very good at climbing; which is used to get too areas to bask in the sun or escape predators. They also are able to burrow underground to avoid extreme heat conditions.

Royal python

Python regius

Females coil around her eggs which protects them and it also provides thermoregulation. In cold environments brooding females maintain constant and high temperatures within the clutch by thermogenesis (shivering). They also have a protective mechanism of “balling”; where they form a tight ball with the head being at the centre in threatening circumstances. They also have very good camouflage and they can burrow underground and can climb in certain instances.

Dumeril’s ground boa

Acrantophis dumerili

They have a Jacobson’s organ which is a pair of pit-like organs on the roof of the mouth that are lined with nerves and olfactory cells that interpret chemical stimuli. They also have a forked tongue which picks up scent particles and passes them to the roof of their mouth.

California king snake

Lampropeltis getula californiae

The snake has hinged jaws; which allows them to swallow their prey which is bigger than their head. They have a tolerance to rattlesnake venom; which is useful for them to kill and feed. It has a spine where each vertebra is linked to a pair of individual, thin ribs. This allows them to climb and coil in an S shape.

Corn snake

Pantherophis guttatus

They are constrictors which means that they eat by striking their prey; to stun them and then efficiently wrapping their coils around the prey to suffocate them. After this, they swallow the prey whole.

Burmese python

Python bivittatus

They have good camouflage because they have a square mosaic pattern; this helps to hide the snake amongst the forest floor. Again, like other snakes they can swallow prey which is much larger than their own body. They also have a highly developed smell; due to their lack of hearing and poor vision.

Plated lizard

Gerrhosaurus major

They have good camouflage for the desert climate; due to the colouring on the lizard. They have a strong, thick tail which is used as a whip to scare away predators. They have hard plated scales and they use the tongue as a sense organ by grasping biochemical particles present in the environment; by mates or predators.

Asian water monitor

Varanus salvator

They are very good climbers; they can climb trees which means that they can catch the prey living there and also escape from predators. They have got good camouflage as well due to their colour and they are very good swimmers.

Glass lizard

Ophisaurus

They can drop their tail if they are attacked and their locomotion is quick; because they have movement similar to that of snakes. They are a limbless lizard and the hindlimbs are reduced significantly; therefore, it slithers through grass.

Day gecko

Phelsuma

Again, like other reptiles they have good camouflage amongst leaves; due to their green colour. They are also good climbers because they have flattened toe pads with adhesive scales on their undersides; which is known as lamellae. They are also diurnal; meaning that they are active during the daytime.

Boa constrictor

Boa constrictor imperator

They are constrictors; which mean that they kill their prey be constriction (they wrap their bodies around their prey until they stop breathing). These snakes also have sensitive scales in their faces which help to sense when their prey is close.

Additional comments:

The main orders at the Animalrium;

  • Testudines (turtles, chelonioa and tortoises)
  • Squamata (snakes and lizards)
  • Crocodilia (crocodiles)

Aves (Birds)

Key features of birds:

They are archosaurs and have a spindle shaped body with four divisions; neck, head, tail and truck. They have paired limbs and the forelimbs are usually modified for flying. They have feathers and scaly legs and their bones are light (an adaption for flight). They have a four-chambered heart and generally exhibit high metabolic rates. They have no urinary bladder and are toothless (which are modifications for flight).

Common name

Latin name

Key adaptations:

Laughing kookaburra

Dacelo novaeguineae

The jaw and beak of the kookaburra are fairly strong. This is used to catch prey in the environment. The beak is also used to make nests in termite mounds or tree hollows. The colouring of the bird creates good camouflage in the bush land that they live in. Also the toes of the foot are stuck together in pairs which helps the bird to grasp the branch firmly.

Rosa bourke (Bourke’s parrot)

Neopsephotus bourkii

They have a stout hooked bill which is used for feeding and they have feathers which help them to blend in with the reddish soil of its environment. They carry food with their feet and use the beak and both feet while they are climbing.

Bengal eagle own

Bubo bengalensis

They have a low wing loading (big wings supporting a lightweight body). They have long toes and talons which enables them to catch prey in the deepness of vegetation. They have large rounded heads and big eyes as well.

Sandhill crane

Grus canadensis

They have a trachea which curves like a saxophone; instead of having a straight tube. This helps the crane to carry out a call which can be heard from a very long distance away (around 1 mile). They have narrow, long legs which help them to move in the water.

Von der decken’s hornbill

Tockus deckeni

Hornbills provide increased vigilance (alertness for predators) allowing them more time to feed. They are the only birds where the first and second neck vertebrae are joined together. This is believed to provide a more stable platform for supporting the bird.

Starling

Sturnidae

They have strong muscles which are used to open the bill of the bird. This adaptation allows the bird to probe into weeds, soil or grass and then open the bill to push aside the weeds to look for insects to eat.

Rose fronted parakeet

Pyrrhura roseifrons

They have a slight waterproof coating on their feathers and they can turn their head 180 degrees which is used for alertness for predators. Their beaks are used for getting into tight spaces for food.

Emu

Dromaius novaehollandiae

Emus have got three toes on their feet and they have got sharp nails which makes it good defence. They have got strong legs which are used for running and they have got double quilled feathers to allow the bird to maintain constant body temperatures.

Blue eared pheasant

Crossoptilon auritum

They have short rounded-wings, sturdy legs and have got a well-developed keel. They have also got large wing muscles.

Great curassow

Crax rubra

They have got forward curling feathers on their heads and have got long tails. They have got a useful bill which is used for feeding.

Yellow crested cockatoo

Cacatua sulphurea

They have got a bill used for feeding and they have got feet which are used for climbing in the environment.

Rhea

Rheidae

They are flightless birds that have got an unkeeled sternum. They have got three toes and heavy legs and have got head and neck feathers.

Additional comments:

  • They have a double circulatory system and maintain a high body temperature.

Mammalia – Metatheria

Key features of metatheria:

They are marsupials and are commonly thought of as pouched animals. Both marsupials and eutherians share derived characters not found among monotremes. They have higher metabolic rates, give birth to live young and have nipples that provide milk. In most species, the nursing young are held within a maternal pouch called a marsupium.

Common name

Latin name

Key adaptations:

Bennet’s wallaby

Macropus rufogriseus

They have got a well-developed tail which can be used as a tripod layout when the animal is resting; and it is used for balance. They are mainly active at dawn; which is to reduce predation. The hind legs are powerful and long; compared to the front legs; which is an adaption for moving quickly across terrain.

Parma wallaby

Macropus parma

They are known as the white-throated wallaby due to the colouration of their fur. These wallabies communicate with visual clues; e.g. foot stomping. Their hind legs move independent of each other and again have got a strong tail for balancing and the tripod layout when resting.

Additional comments:

Mammalia – Eutheria

Key features of eutherians:

Eutherians are commonly known as placental mammals. Because their placentas are more complex than those of marsupials. They also have a longer pregnancy than marsupials.

Common name

Latin name

Key adaptations:

Wedge-capped capuchin

Cebus olivaceus

They have got a more elaborate social structure and carry out visual signals and sounds. They move quadrupedally ally and use their prehensile tail while they are eating. They also have a well defined thumb and complex calls.

Black and white ruffed lemur

Varecia variegata

They have hind limbs that are longer than their front limbs; which allows them to walk, run and leap from tree to tree. They have a second toe of the hind foot which has a claw-like nail which is used for grooming. They also have binocular vision and are a large tree-dweller.

Shetland pony

Equus ferus caballus

They have eyes on the side of their head so they can see just about all of the way around their bodies. Their ears turn separately so they can determine the location of a sound. They have strong legs which are used in different types of locomotion e.g. trot, canter.

Eurasian lynx

Lynx lynx

They have hind limbs which are longer than their forelimbs. They have webbed, large paws used for locomotion and in the winter season the undersides are covered in dense fur for insulation. They also have large ears with black hair on the tips.

Ocelot

Leopardus pardalis

They have got a spotted and striped coat; which acts as camouflage while they are hunting for prey. They have also got sharp and strong claws which help them to climb trees and use them in hunting. They also have webbed feet which is used when they go swimming.

African leopard

Panthera pardus pardus

The leopard has got a scapula and big skull which is adapted for the attachment of powerful muscles. It also has a varied diet which allows it to adjust in prey availability; and they are also able to adapt to a changing environment.

Common marmoset

Callithrix jacchus

They usually travel in small groups for safety in the environment and they have got well-developed eyesight, smell and hearing. They are diurnal and they usually take shelter in cavities and tree holes. Their facial expression is moved by lip movements and have got claw like nails for running up trunks.

Racoon

Procyon lotor

They have adapted very well to the human population going into their territory and living. They have a broad diet which means that they can eat really anything that is available. They have got hand like paws which makes searching for food easier.

Ring tailed coati

Nasua nasua

They have got very flexible bones and their ankles can rotate 180 degrees and therefore they can go down trees headfirst. They usually hold their tail erect, which is used when they are in groups in long vegetation.

Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

They have special adaptation which allow them to burrow in the environment. They have ears which close tightly to keep debris out and they have eyes which have a clear protective membrane which protects them from debris while the dig.

 

Vervet monkey

Chlorocebus pygerythrus

Their eyes are stereoscopic which allows them to gauge distances between trees and the floor. They can distinguish colours and they have developed feet which are good for long distance walking. They have got hands and feet used for climbing as well.

 

Degu

Octodon degus

Their main adaptation is that they are well-developed diggers.

 

Egyptian fruit bat

Rousettus aegyptiacus

They are only true flying mammals. They have wings which are developed from a double layer of skin; which extended from sides of their bodies to four elongated fingers on each hand. They have very good hearing and smell and they have eyes that are adapted for night vision and twilight. They also have flattened grinding teeth.

 

Squirrel monkey

Saimiri

They move through trees by locomotion by leaping. They also have thighs that are smaller compared to their lower legs which makes jumping easier. They also spread a musky glandular secretion throughout their fur which is a scent to mark their territory. They are diurnal, have a mixed diet and have got short thumbs.

 

Mice

Mus

They have big eyes and ears which is used for detecting danger and finding their way in the dark. They also have a good sense of smell which is usually used for recognising other mice.

 

Patas monkey

Erythrocebus patas

They are a quadrupedal ground dwelling species and can sometimes carry out a bipedal stance. They can also run bipedally if all of the forelimbs are occupied. They are quick runners due to having long forelimbs; which is useful for escaping from predators.

 

Asian palm civet

Paradoxurus hermaphroditus

They are able to do chemical defence in circumstances of threat. They produce nauseating secretion from anal scent glands.

 

Ferrets

Mustela putorius furo

They have slender bodies which is useful for burrowing away from predators. They are nocturnal and terrestrial.

Additional comments:

Bibliography

  • Lecture notes
  • Visit to Borth Animalrium: supplementary notes

Books

Reece, J., Urry, L., Cain, M. L., Wasserman, S. R., Minorsky, P. V. and Jackson, R. (2010) Campbell biology / Jane B. Reece … [et al.]. 9th edn. United States: Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company, Subs of Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.


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