Aestivate / Estivate
Become dormant because of heat or dryness. Some turtles will avoid high temperatures by
submerging in the bottom of water, remaining there for days.
Alligator Lizard - Family Anguidae
One of the three Families of lizards that occur in Canada. This is a small group,
consisting of less than 100 species, but they occur in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
There is only one species found in Canada, the
Northwestern Alligator Lizard.
Anuran - Order Anura
Anurans (frogs and toads) are one of the three Orders of amphibians. The other two Orders
are Salamanders and Caecilians -- limbless amphibians found only in the tropics. Anurans
are the most diverse Order of amphibians with some 4000 species worldwide, accounting for
approximately 90% of all species of amphibians. Frogs and toads generally lack tails,
with long hind legs modified for hopping. They range in body length from approximately
1-30 cm. In Canada, the largest species is the
Bullfrog, which can grow to over 15 cm in length.
Boa - Family Boidae
One of the six Families of snakes found in Canada. The Boa Family (Pythonidae)includes
some of the largest snakes in the world, including the Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
and the Reticulate Python (Python reticulatus), both of which can reach 10 m in
length. Boas are generally constrictors that swallow their prey whole. There is only one
species found in Canada, the
Rubber Boa, which
is less than 1m long.
Turtles have both a top and bottom shell. The top shell is the carapace while the
bottom is called the plastron.
COSEWIC stands for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. It is
the national body which designates species at risk in Canada. Species that are at risk
are given one of three designations:
Endangered -- threatened with imminent extinction or extirpation throughout
all or a significant portion of its Canadian range
Extirpated -- a wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but
Threatened -- likely to become endangered if the factors affecting its
vulnerability do not become reversed
Special Concern -- a wildlife species that may become a threatened or an
endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified
Vulnerable -- at risk because of low or declining numbers, occurrence at the
fringe of its range or in restricted areas, or for some other reason, but is not
The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario designates the conservation
risk faced by species within the province of Ontario.
Deep vertical grooves on the sides of salamanders.
They indicate the position of the ribs.
Many species of toads have cranial crests -- raised
ridges between their eyes. These crests can be used to differentiate some species.
Many species of true frogs have two ridges than run down
the back. These ridges begin at the eye and go all or partially down the back. In some
species these ridges are a contrasting colour to the back.
Some turtles have a transverse hinge across the middle
of the plastron allowing them to bend the plastron. This allows the turtles to partially
or completely enclose the head and limbs.
A raised ridge along a scale or scute. Some snakes and lizards have keels along their
scales, while others have smooth scales. Some turtles have a keel down the centre of
Leatherback Sea Turtle Family Dermochelyidae
One of the six Families of turtles that occurs in Canada. This Family contains only a
single species, the
Leatherback. As its name suggests it does not possess a hard shell, instead the
carapace is covered with a leathery skin.
Lizards - Order Squamata
Lizards and snakes are included in the Order Squamata, which is one of the four Orders of
reptiles. Although lizards are the least diverse group of reptiles in Canada, worldwide
they are the most diverse group with approximately 4 000 species. They range in size
from less than 50 mm long to the mighty Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis),
which can reach roughly 3 m in total length. The largest species in Canada is the
Lizard which can reach 25 cm in length.
Lungless Salamander - Family Plethodontidae
One of eight Families of salamanders, only four of which are found in Canada. The largest
family of salamanders, as their name implies they have no lungs, breathing entirely
through their skin. Most species are terrestrial but some are highly aquatic. Lungless
salamanders are found across Canada except the three prairie provinces and the two
Marine Turtle - Family Cheloniidae
One of the six Families of turtles found in Canada. This group includes all the
hard-shelled sea turtles. In general they range widely in the warmer marine waters.
There are three pecies which wander into Canadian waters.
Mole Salamander - Family Ambystomatidae
One of the four Families of salamanders found in Canada. World-wide there are eight
Families. These salamanders have stout bodies and limbs compared with other families.
Adults spend most of the year underground, leaving their burrows only during the
breeding season. Mole salamanders are found in every province.
Mudpuppies - Family Proteidae
The mudpuppies are a small Family of totally aquatic salamanders. There are a total of
eight Families of salamanders, only four of which are found in Canada. Adult mudpuppies
never transform but retain the form of the larvae. In Canada there is only one species,
Mudpuppy, which is found in eastern Canada.
Musk and Mud Turtles - Family Kinosternidae
This group is one of the six Families of turtles found in Canada. These turtles tend to
be fairly small and have a hinged plastron. The only species found as far north as
Canada is the
Eastern Musk Turtle.
Newt - Family Salamandridae
One of eight Families of salamanders, only four of which are found in Canada. Unlike most
salamanders the skin of newts is not smooth but rough. Most newts go through three life
stages rather than just two like most amphibians. The larval newt transforms into a
terrestrial stage called an eft. This stage can last 1-3 years before the eft transforms
into a largely aquatic adult. Only two species of newts are found in Canada, the
Newt in British Columbia and the
Red-spotted Newt in eastern Canada.
Parotoid glands are large swollen areas behind the
eye and in some species extending down along the neck of some amphibians. These glands
(and the warts) can secrete a sticky white poison that can paralyze or even kill a
predator. If you handle a toad roughly it might secrete this poision which can then be
transmitted to your eyes. Always make sure to wash your hands after handling a toad.
Turtles have both a top and bottom shell. The bottom shell is the plastron, while the top
shell is the carapace.
Pond and Marsh Turtles - Family Emydidae
One of the six Families of turtles found in Canada. This is the largest group of turtles
in the world, with approximately 100 species. The group is quite diverse but typically
has a low arch to the carapace and a large plastron. Five of Canada's 12 species of
turtles belong to this Family.
Salamander - Order Caudata
One of the three Orders of amphibians. The other two Orders are Anurans (frogs and toads)
and Gymnophionans (Caecilians) -- limbless amphibians found only in the tropics. Salamanders
are characterized by their elongated body and tail. Most salamanders have only four front
toes but five rear toes. There are approximately 400 species of salamanders worldwide,
ranging in size from 4 cm total length to 1.5m! In Canada the largest species is the
Common Mudpuppy which
can grow to over 40 cm in total length. Most salamanders are much smaller than this.
The skin covering the bones of a turtle's shell form hard scale-like scutes. The scutes add
new material as the turtle grows,hence growth lines can be seen in many scutes.
Unfortunately such growth lines only provide a crude estimate of the turtle's age because
turtles (especially adults) do not grow every year and old growth lines may become faint or
completely worn away.
Spadefoot - Family Scaphiopodidae (formerly Pelobatidae)
Although commonly called Spadefoot Toads, they are not actually toads. They are easily
distinguished from true toads by having
vertical pupils to
their eyes, relatively smooth skin and no parotoid (poison) glands. Spadefoots get their
name from the "spade", a
sharp- edged protrusion on the inside of their hind feet used for burrowing. With it,
spadefoots can burrow down into the ground almost a full metre. Canada has only two species
of spadefoots: the
Basin Spadefoot of British Columbia and the
of the prairies.
Short-horned Lizard - Family Phrynosomatidae
One of the three Families of lizards that occur in Canada. This group of lizards contains
over 100 species. Some authorities consider this Family to be part of the Iguana Family.
There are two species found in Canada, both in the west.
Skink - Family Scinicidae
One of the three Families of lizards found in Canada. Skinks are a large, diverse group
consisting of over 1000 species. In Canada, all three species look similar: they have a
series of longitudinal stripes, have sleek, smooth bodies and the juveniles have bright
Snakes - Order Squamata
The snakes are included, with lizards, in the Order Squamata, which is one of the four
Orders of reptiles. While all snakes are superficially similar in body shape, they differ
markedly in anatomy. In total there are roughly 2,500 species of snakes around the world.
Snakes as a group are unusual in that every single species is carnivorous. Snakes range in
size from only 10 cm in length to over 10 m! The largest species in Canada is the
which can reach 2.5 m in total length.
Snapping Turtle - Family Chelydridae
One of the six Families of turtles found in Canada. There are only two species in this
small group. Snapping turtles have a hooked upper jaw, well-developed claws and a long
saw-toothed tail. The only species in Canada is the
Softshell Turtle - Family Trionychidae
One of the six Families of turtles found in Canada. As the name suggests, these turtles do
not have a hard shell, rather the carapace is covered with a leathery skin. Softshell
turtles commonly have a long neck and a long, tubular snout. There is only one species
found in Canada, the Eastern
One of the four Orders of reptiles. The only other Order found in Canada is Testudines (the
turtles). The other two Orders are Crocodylia (the crocodiles and alligators) and
Sphenodontida (represented by the Tuataras, two lizard-like species from New Zealand, ).
Squamata includes both the lizards and the snakes, because the two groups are closely
related. One can think of snakes as a highly specialized group of lizards with no legs.
There are also some reptiles with no legs that are consider lizards rather than snakes
because of the greater similarity to most lizards. In total there are over 6 000 species of
snakes and lizards around the world.
Tailed Frog - Family Leiopelmatidae (formerly Ascaphidae)
A small Family of frogs with only two species in North America, the
tailed frogs. In
Canada, they are found only in British Columbia. Only males have the "tail" which is
actually an organ used for reproduction.
This group includes all turtles, from small pond turtles barely 10 cm long to mammoth sea
turtles almost 2 m in length. Testudines is a comparatively small group of organisms with
just over 250 species worldwide. Despite this they occur in most ecosystems, from deserts
Treefrog - Family Hylidae
Small frogs with big voices, best describes this Family of frogs. Most species have large
sticky toe-pads to aid them in climbing. Many treefrogs live in shrubs and trees all
summer, after breeding in temporary ponds in the spring. They are often tiny and well
camouflaged, making them very difficult to find. Treefrogs are found in every province,
although they are not native to Newfoundland. They are also found in the southern part
of the Northwest Territories.
True Frog - Family Ranidae
The mental image most people have of a frog is of the true frog Family. True frogs are
relatively large with long legs and webbed hind feet. They are good jumpers and generally
the adults are truly amphibious. In Canada, True frogs vary in size from the
which is less than 6 cm in body length to the massive
Bullfrog which can grow to over 15 cm long. True frogs are found in every province and
territory in Canada.
True Toad - Family Bufonidae
Plump, with rough warty skin, members of the toad Family are found all across Canada. Toads
defend themselves with enlarged parotoid (poison)
glands behind the eye. When attacked, the toad secretes a white substance from these glands
which gets into the mouth of any would-be predator. If you handle a toad roughly it might
secrete this poision which can then be transmitted to your eyes. Always make sure to wash
your hands after handling a toad.
Tubercles are small, knoblike projections or bumps.
a round area just behind the eye, is the eardrum. Among amphibians, only frogs and toads
have eardrums and they are prominent in many species. In some true frogs like the Bullfrog,
males have larger eardrums than females. Among reptiles, most turtles and lizards have
tympani, but they are absent from highly aquatic turtles, some lizards and all snakes.
"Typical" Snake - Family Colubridae
The "typical snakes" or "colubrids" include the majority of snake species in the world,
approximately 1500 species. This very large family has been split into several different
families, based on genetic, behavioural and biological evidence. All of the snakes in
Canada, except for the
Rubber Boa and the rattlesnakes, belong to one or another of the Families Colubridae
(harmless egg-laying snakes), Natricidae (harmless live-bearing snakes), Dipsadidae
(slender rear-fanged snakes), or Xenodontidae (robust rear-fanged snakes).
Viper - Family Viperidae
One of the six Families of snakes found in Canada. All Vipers are poisonous. They include
the rattlesnakes (the only poisonous snakes that occur in Canada), as well as the
copperheads and cottonmouths, which do not occur in Canada. Not all poisonous snakes belong
to this Family. Cobras, for example, belong to the Elapid Family. There are three species
of Viper known from Canada.
Wall lizards - Family Lacertidae
Wall lizards belong to a European and Asian family of lizards. They were introduced to
Canada near Victoria, BC in the early 1970's when a small private zoo closed and
several individuals were released.