Amphibian and Reptile Facts



Photo of a plains leopard frog in grass.
The calls of plains leopard frogs add to the magic of a Missouri evening.
Noppadol Paothong

View reptiles and amphibians in the field guide.

Amphibians, which include salamanders, newts, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals (in the phylum Chordata) that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They are ectothermal (or cold-blooded), which means that they do not produce their own body heat like birds, people or other mammals. They remain the same temperature as their surroundings and seek out cooler or warmer spots to avoid temperatures too high or too low for their survival.

Missouri has 43 species of amphibians, with an additional five subspecies or geographic races. No amphibians in Missouri are venomous — they are harmless to people. The color and variety of salamanders and the calls of toads and frogs in spring and summer help make our outdoors a fun and lively place to be.

Like amphibians, reptiles are vertebrates (in the phylum Chordata) and most are ectothermal. Reptiles evolved from salamander-like creatures about 315 million years ago. Unlike amphibians, reptiles do not have to live part of their life in water. Early reptiles were the first vertebrates to produce shelled eggs that protected their eggs from drying as they developed. So, reptiles are able to live in dry habitats where amphibians can not survive.

Missouri has 75 species and subspecies of reptiles: 17 different turtles, 11 different lizards, and 47 different species and subspecies of snakes. Only five snake species are venomous to people. Most are shy and normally avoid people.


hellbender, a large brown salamander resting in gravelly streambed
Eastern Hellbender


Image of a ringed salamander
Ringed Salamander in leaf bed.
Ring salamander


Photo of a long-tailed salamander on a rotten log.
Long-Tailed Salamander
The long-tailed salamander is agile and can escape predators by using its tail for quick jumps.


Photo of a central newt adult on a plastic aquarium plant.
Central Newt (Adult)
The central newt lives in and around woodland ponds and swamps in all but our far northwestern counties.


Image of an eastern spadefoot
Eastern Spadefoot
The eastern spadefoot is rare in our state due to draining of wetlands and loss of native sand prairies.


Photo of a Woodhouse’s toad in lawn grass.
Woodhouse’s Toad
Woodhouse’s toad occurs mainly along the Missouri River and along streams in western Missouri.


Image of a western narrow-mouthed toad
Western Narrow-Mouthed Toad


Image of American Bullfrog
American Bullfrog


Image of a gray treefrog
Gray Treefrog


Photo of a plains leopard frog in grass.
Plains Leopard Frog
The plains leopard frog is found throughout most of Missouri, except for the Ozarks.


Image of an eastern collared lizard
Eastern Collared Lizard


prairie lizard
Prairie Lizard


Photo of a Texas horned lizard camouflaged against a tan, gravelly substrate.
Texas Horned Lizard
The Texas horned lizard is stocky and short-tailed, with several large “horns” protruding from the back of the head.


photo of juvenile southern coal skink
Southern Coal Skink (Juvenile)


Photo of Broad-headed skink on ground among leaves
Broad-Headed Skink


Image of a northern prairie skink
Northern Prairie Skink


Photo of a snapping turtle on grass gaping at camera.
Snapping Turtle (Common Snapping Turtle)
Snapping turtles occur statewide anywhere there is permanent water.


midland smooth softshell
Midland Smooth Softshell


Image of an eastern river cooter (turtle)
Eastern River Cooter


Three-toed box turtle
Three-Toed Box Turtle
Three-toed box turtle


Image of a broad-banded watersnake
Broad-Banded Watersnake


Photo of a plains gartersnake taken in Lakewood, Colorado.
Plains Gartersnake
The plains gartersnake is an attractive, medium-sized gartersnake with a yellowish-orange stripe down the middle of the back.


Photo of an eastern hog-nosed snake, closeup showing head.
Eastern Hog-Nosed Snake
Eastern hog-nosed snakes feed chiefly on toads but are also known to eat frogs and salamanders.


Image of a red milksnake
Eastern Milksnake (Red Milksnake)
The red milksnake is secretive and seldom seen in the open. It is found on rocky, south-facing hillsides, especially on glades.


Image of a prairie ring-necked snake
Prairie Ring-Necked Snake


Image of a speckled kingsnake
Speckled Kingsnake


northern rough greensnake
Northern Rough Greensnake


Photo of a western ratsnake on a bed of dry leaves.
Western Ratsnake (Black Rat Snake)
The western ratsnake was long known as the black rat snake, and many know it simply as "black snake."


Photo of a cottonmouth snake in defensive posture.
Cottonmouth snake in defensive posture
A cottonmouth gapes its mouth open in a defensive posture, showing the white lining that is the origin of the common name.


Image of a western pygmy rattlesnake
Western Pygmy Rattlesnake

In This Section

Lizard Facts

Missouri is home to 11 species of lizards, all of which are harmless and nonvenomous. Learn where Missouri's lizards live, what they eat, what eats them, and how you can make room for them on your land.

Salamander Facts

Missouri is home to nearly 50 species and subspecies of salamanders. Browse this section to learn more about these elusive creatures and their place in our ecosystem.

Snake Facts

With its variety of wildlife habitats, Missouri is home to 47 species and subspecies of snakes. All snakes help control pest populations.

Toad and Frog Facts

Missouri is home to 26 species and subspecies of toads and frogs. Learn their natural history, and browse our on-line field guide listings.

Turtle Facts

Missouri has 17 kinds of turtles — all but three are protected. Get to know, appreciate, and conserve Missouri's turtles.