Section Summary

As tetrapods, most amphibians are characterized by four well-developed limbs, although some species of salamanders and all caecilians are limbless. The most important characteristic of extant amphibians is a moist, permeable skin used for cutaneous respiration, although lungs are found in the adults of many species.

All amphibians are carnivores and possess many small teeth. The fossil record provides evidence of amphibian species, now extinct, that arose over 400 million years ago as the first tetrapods. Living Amphibia can be divided into three classes: salamanders (Urodela), frogs (Anura), and caecilians (Apoda). In the majority of amphibians, development occurs in two distinct stages: a gilled aquatic larval stage that metamorphoses into an adult stage, acquiring lungs and legs, and losing the tail in Anurans. A few species in all three clades bypass a free-living larval stage. Various levels of parental care are seen in the amphibians.