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About Amphibians and Reptiles


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The Meaning of the Words


The word "amphibian" comes from ancient Greek and means "living two lives". The first part of the word, "amphi", means two or both. The second part of the word, "bian" means lives or living. Young amphibians live in the water like a fish. Then the adults live on land. Because young amphibians look so different from the adults, it seems that one animal lives two lives. We now use the word amphibian to mean something that lives or goes in water and on land.


The word "reptile" means "creeping or crawling animal". It comes from the old language of Latin.

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The common names of animals, like Leopard Frog or Wood Frog, are just the names that people have always used for them. Each kind of animal may have several common names depending on where it lives. Our Green Frog is called the Bronze Frog in parts of eastern North America where most of them are brown in colour. Common names can be confusing in that way. That is why every kind of animal has it's own special scientific name.

Scientific Name


Every kind of animal has only one scientific name. This name is in two parts. The first part is the genus ("jeen-us") name and the second is the species ("spee-sees") name. Animals with the same genus name are close relatives, but each different kind will have its own species name.

You can learn about the scientific names of each of our amphibians and reptiles on this page: What Scientific Names Mean.

Words to Know

Here are some of the words that are used in this website that might be unusual for some people.

Male frogs, toads and treefrogs climb on the back of females and hold on until she lays her eggs. This is called amplexus.
When reptiles are lying in the sun to warm themselves they are basking.
Colours and patterns on animals that let them hide are called camouflage.
The DNA of all animals is in bunches or strings called chromosomes.
Scientists and students take dead animals apart to see how they work. This is called a dissection.
When the tadpoles of frogs, toads, and treefrogs change to the adult shape they are very small and are called froglets, toadlets and treefroglets.
A hectare is a measure of area. It is an area 100 m by 100 m, or 10,000 square metres.
When animals rest or sleep for the whole winter they are said to hibernate.
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. Insects, spiders, worms and snails are kinds of invertebrates.
Larva is a word for a young animal that does not look like the adults of its kind. More than one are larvae. Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths. Tadpoles are the larvae of frogs, toads and treefrogs.
A tubercle is a hard bump on the skin. Toads have sharp tubercles on their hind feet to use like shovels to dig into the ground.
The large ear drum on the side of the head of frogs, toads and treefrogs is called a tympanum.
Vertebrates are animals with backbones like fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
An animal, usually snakes, that have venom or poison in their bite. (There are no venomous snakes in Manitoba.)

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