Division of Vertebrate Zoology | Herpetology | Contributors
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The 23 amphibian and 24 reptile species (not including sea turtles) living wild in Connecticut represent a diversity of habitat needs in addition to diversity of species. Although Connecticut is a small state, the available habitat is diverse. Amphibian and reptile species in Connecticut include species dependant on vernal pools and fragile trap-rock habitat. Some species live in tidal salt marshes, while others require cool, clean mountain streams. Some migrate each fall to ancestral hibernation dens, while others burrow deep into mud in the bottom of a pond to survive the cold New England winters. Connecticut’s amphibians and reptiles can be found high in trees and deep underground.
Sadly, because some of these species require very specific habitats, they are subject to extinction through habitat loss. Many species have been given some protection, with a few being classified as endangered or threatened by the State of Connecticut. Hopefully, through public education and continued research and understanding, conservation efforts will succeed and those few species truly in danger of extinction will continue to be valued members of the herpetofaunal diversity of Connecticut.
Amphibians, of which there are more than 7,000 living species in the world, include the worm-like caecilians, tailed salamanders, and tail-less frogs and toads. Like fishes, reptiles, birds and mammals, amphibians are vertebrates. Most have a moist, outer layer of skin made up of dead cells, which protects the animals against rapid water loss through evaporation. Most amphibians lead a dual existence, spending part of their life in water, part on land. They lay gelatinous-covered eggs in a moist environment, usually in water. Fertilization is external in most frogs and toads and internal in most salamanders. All amphibians are carnivorous as adults.
Connecticut has 12 species of salamander and 11 species of frog. There are no caecilians in the United States. Choose from the lists below to learn more about a species.
— By Jim Sirch
Frogs and Toads (Amphibia: Anura)
All Connecticut species have an aquatic larval stage of life; these larvae are commonly known as tadpoles. The tadpole gradually grows legs and lungs to complete its metamorphosis into an adult frog or toad. Some tadpoles complete metamorphosis in only a few weeks, while others take a few years.
There are 11 species of frogs and toads native to Connecticut.
Eastern Spadefoot Toad Scaphiopus holbrooki
Salamanders (Amphibia: Caudata)
Salamanders are often very secretive in the wild. Many of the more than 120 species of this group of amphibians in the United States are only regularly seen during the breeding season.
Salamanders have a wider array of life history traits than do frogs. While most salamanders spawn in the water and have a larval stage that metamorphoses into a terrestrial adult, some develop directly from eggs into small salamanders, thus bypassing the aquatic larval stage entirely (genus Plethodon). Still others have a larval stage that lasts for the entire life of the animal, with aquatic adults with gills (genus Necturus).
There are 12 species of salamander in Connecticut.
Four-toed Salamander Hemidactylum scutatum
Northern Dusky Salamander Desmognathus fuscus
Northern Spring Salamander Gyrinophilus poryphoriticus
Northern Two-lined Salamander Eurycea bislineata
Red-backed Salamander Plethodon cinereus
Slimy Salamander Plethodon glutinosus
Mudpuppy Necturus maculosus
Red-spotted Newt Notopthalmus viridescens
Reptiles are a group of vertebrates with amniotic eggs and scales covering their bodies. A highly diverse group, modern reptiles include crocodilians, turtles, snakes and lizards. They range in size from a few inches or centimeters for a small lizard, to 30 feet (10 m) or more for the largest snakes. Reptiles have colonized nearly every habitat on earth and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. While most lay eggs, some are live-bearing. Some species are comprised entirely of females and reproduce asexually through a process known as parthenogenesis. All reptiles are ectothermic (“cold-blooded”) and derive body heat from the environment rather than from metabolism. Over 6,000 reptile species are known to science.
There are 25 species of reptile in Connecticut. Choose from the lists below to learn more about a species.
Turtles (Reptilia: Chelonia)
Turtles are a confusing group of reptiles. Although often thought of as evolutionarily ancient, they have many characteristics not shared by any other vertebrates, and thus are difficult to place into the phylogeny of reptiles. For instance, turtles are the only vertebrate animals with a bony shell. Most of the 300 or so species of turtle in the world are aquatic or semi-aquatic, with a few (the tortoises and a few others) adapted to a terrestrial life.
There are 9 species of freshwater or terrestrial turtle in Connecticut. A few species of sea turtle also frequent Long Island Sound.
Common Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentina
Common Musk Turtle Sternotherus odoratus
Snakes (Reptilia: Squamata)
There are over 2,500 species of snake on earth. They live in a wide variety of habitats and range in size from under a foot (30 cm) to over 30 feet (10 m). All snakes are predators and most are nonvenomous. While most snakes lay eggs, many are live-bearing, including a few species native to Connecticut.
There are 14 species of snake native to Connecticut.
Black Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta
Eastern Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
Eastern Hognose Snake Heterodon platyrhinos
Eastern Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
Eastern Ribbon Snake Thamnophis sauritus
Eastern Worm Snake Carphophis amoenis
Northern Black Racer Coluber constrictor constrictor
Northern Brown Snake Storeria dekayi
Northern Redbelly Snake Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata
Northern Ringneck Snake Diadophus punctatus
Northern Water Snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon
Smooth Green Snake Opheodrys vernalis
Lizards are very closely related to snakes. Lizards represent the most diverse group of reptiles on earth in terms of habitat use, body shape and size, and range in size from tiny geckos barely 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in total length, to Komodo monitor lizards reaching over 9 feet (270 cm). Some lizards have highly modified feet for climbing smooth surfaces, while others are completely arboreal, with feet that act like pincers to grasp twigs. Still others have lost their limbs entirely and dig in the ground. There are even at least 3 groups of lizard that glide like flying squirrels, and one species which reportedly glows in the dark.
Of the estimated 3,000 species of lizard currently recognized by science, only one—currently listed as a threatened species—is native to Connecticut. One additional lizard species is non-native and established in the state.
Italian Wall Lizard Podarcis sicula
Five-lined Skink Plestiodon fasciatus
Send comments to Gregory Watkins-Colwell.
Contributors to this multi-authored guide include:
Charles M. Sikorski, Jr.
Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell
From The Calls of Frogs and Toads [book and CD-ROM]
Published March 2004 by Stackpole Books: 1.800.732.3669.
© 1994 Lang Elliott/NatureSound Studio. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Suzanne L. Collins
Gregory J. Watkins-Colwell
This online guide can be cited as follows:
Watkins-Colwell , Gregory J. , editor. Online Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Connecticut [Internet]. New Haven (CT): Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University; c. 2015 [updated 6 April 2015; cited give your date of access here]. Available from: http://peabody.yale.edu/collections/vertebrate-zoology/herpetology/online-guide-amphibians-and-reptiles-connecticut
Last updated: 6 April 2015
© 2005, 2015 Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. All rights reserved.