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Reptiles and Amphibians



The world's 8,240 species of reptiles inhabit every continent except Antarctica. Reptiles include turtles, snakes, crocodiles, and lizards. They can be as small as the dwarf gecko (less than an inch long) or as big as the saltwater crocodile, which can weigh more than a ton. All reptiles have scales, but some are too small to be seen. Reptiles are ectothermic (their body temperature is regulated by their environment). Most lay eggs, but a few give birth to live young.


Amphibian Crisis

Amphibians are in crisis. One-third of all known amphibian species are in danger of being wiped out by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)—also known as chytrid fungus. Experts and institutions have joined together to form the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, which aims to rescue and possibly save numerous species.

The discovery of what may be three new frog species by researchers in Panama illustrates the hope and fear encountered daily by the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. The discoveries lead to hope that project researchers can save these animals from a deadly fungus killing frogs worldwide and the fear that many species will go extinct before scientists even know they exist. Read more.

There are more than 6,000 species of amphibians on Earth, including frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts. One-third of amphibians are threatened with extinction.

For most amphibians, life begins in the water—the young have gills and lack legs when they hatch from eggs laid in the water. They metamorphose, growing legs and changing in other ways to live on land. The word "amphibian" comes from Greek—both lives. Amphibians became the first vertebrates to live on land, and like their "cold-blooded" reptile relatives, depend on external energy sources (such as the sun) to maintain their body temperatures. Read more about being ectothermic.

Salamander Ambassadors

Donate to the Zoo's Amphibian Conservation Program


At the National Zoo, reptiles and amphibians can be found at the Reptile Discovery Center and Amazonia.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Reptile Discovery Center

The Reptile Discovery Center is home to many distinctive animals, from the massive Aldabra tortoise to the unusual gharial, to better known creatures such as the American alligator, Komodo dragon, and boa constrictor.

More about the Reptile Discovery Center