Characteristics of Amphibians: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Amphibians are animals that live on land and in the water. This lesson will teach you about the special characteristics that make amphibians different from other animals and how to recognize them.

What is an Amphibian?

Imagine being an alien from another planet who is trying to figure out life on Earth. You've seen puppies that look like smaller versions of their dog mother, baby chicks that look like miniatures of their bird moms, and even human babies that look like their parents, except they are tiny and bald. Then you discover a different kind of animal. Its eggs hatch but the babies look nothing like their mother. You've just seen an amphibian!

Amphibians are animals that can live on both land and water. There are many different kinds of amphibians, but they all share the same characteristics, or special qualities, that make them different from other animals and easy to recognize.

Frog with Backbone
Frog with Backbone

Characteristics of Amphibians

You can tell if an animal is an amphibian by looking for these specific characteristics:

  • Like you, amphibians are vertebrates and have a spine. That spine, or backbone, helps hold up their body from the inside so they don't look like a shapeless blob, and also acts like a hard case that helps keep their spinal cord from getting hurt.
  • Amphibians live some of their life in the water, and may live some of it on land. When they hatch from their eggs as larvae, they live in the water and don't look at all like their parents the way some animals do. They take in oxygen through gills, like fish, as they swim around. They eventually go through a metamorphosis, or a big change in appearance, and become adults that finally look like their mothers and fathers. They lose their tails, grow lungs and many grow legs, though some still keep their gills. As adults, they may live on land, on both land and water, or only in the water, depending on what kind of amphibian they are.

Tadpoles Before Their Metamorphosis into Frogs
Tadpoles Before Their Metamorphosis into Frogs

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