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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Thinking of studying herpetology?

The best thing you can do is try it!

Herpetology, as a scientific study and as a hobby, can have positive impacts on the conservation of threatened reptile and amphibian species.

  • Learn about the biological and ecological characteristics of reptiles and amphibians.
  • Develop your knowledge of relevant conservation issues and much more.
  • Start at any time, study from home or where you choose with our self-paced, online course in Herpetology.

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Study Herpetology by Distance Learning.

How can I get into Herpetology?

So … you are interested in the study of reptiles and amphibians. The first thing you need to do is ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to be involved with reptiles and amphibians?


  • Do I want to become a herpetologist?

If you are interested in becoming a Herpetologist as a professional career, you will more than likely require a high-level qualification.

It is probably more likely that you want to be involved with reptiles and amphibians, either through working with them or having them as pets.

If this is the case, then this Herpetology course is a fantastic introduction to the world of these fascinating animals. 

  • Start this 100 hour course at any time.
  • Study with the help and guidance of our expert tutors.



There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Herpetology

    • Herpetology Defined

    • Introduction to Reptiles

    • Animal Taxonomy

    • Classification of Reptiles

    • Characteristics of Reptiles

    • Testudine Characteristics (Turtles)

    • Squamata Characteristics (Snakes and Lizards)

    • Rhynchocephalia Characteristics (Tuatara)

    • Classification of Amphibians

    • Amphibian Characteristics

    • Building Resources and Developing Networks

    • Terminology


  2. Class Reptilia (Reptiles)

    • Reptile Classification

    • Water Conservation

    • Reproduction

    • Order Chelonia (Testudines); Turtles

    • Order Crocodilia; Crocodilians

    • Order Squamata

    • Scaled Reptiles; Lizards (Suborder Sauria)

    • and Snakes (Suborder Serpentes)


  3. Reptile Biology

    • Reptile Anatomy

    • Skeleton

    • Scales and Skutes

    • Ectothermal Regulation

    • Coloration

    • Respiration and Metabolism

    • Food and Digestion

    • Senses

    • Locomotion


  4. Class Amphibia (Amphibians)

    • Order Anura (Frogs and Toads)

    • Order Apoda (Caecilians)

    • Order Urodela (Salamanders and Newts)


  5. Amphibian Biology

    • Amphibian Skeleton

    • Skin

    • Ectothermal Regulation

    • Colouration

    • Respiration and Metabolism

    • Branchial

    • Buccopharyngeal

    • Cutaneous

    • Pulmonic

    • Food and Digestion

    • Senses

    • Locomotion

    • Reproduction


  6. Ecology of Reptiles

    • Species Richness

    • Constriction

    • Injected Venom

    • Inertia Feeding

    • Biting and Grasping

    • Suction Feeding

    • Reproductive Strategies

    • Viviparity

    • Oviparity

    • Nest Building

    • Habitat Use; Aquatic and Terrestrial

    • Basking

    • Hibernation


  7. Ecology of Amphibians

    • Use of Habitat

    • Temperature Relationships

    • Feeding

    • Vocal Communication; Advertisement calls, Territorial calls, Release calls, Distress calls

    • Social Behaviour

    • Dealing with Predators

    • Reproduction and Parental Care


  8. Conservation Issues

    • Habitat change

    • Edge Effects

    • Pollution; especially water pollution

    • Environmental Acidification (Acid Rain)

    • Pesticides

    • Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

    • Spread of disease

    • Invasive Species

    • Climate Change

    • Spread of Disease

    • Disease in Wild Populations

    • Trade in Reptiles and Amphibians

    • Conservation

    • Conservation Genetics

    • Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals


  9. Keeping Reptiles and Amphibians

    • Introduction

    • Legal Issues

    • Special conditions for Amphibians

    • Special Conditions for Reptiles

    • Preventing Spread of Disease from Reptiles to Humans

    • Housing

    • Reptile Captivity Problems

    • Reptile Feed and Feeding

    • Amphibians and Reptile Species that are in Captivity

    • Feeding Amphibians

    • General Care

    • Common Ailments in Reptiles and Amphibians

    • Parasitic Diseases

    • Fungal Diseases

    • Viral Diseases

    • Metabolic Bone Disease

    • Thiamine Deficiency




  • Discuss the nature and scope of reptiles.

  • Identify credible resources, and begin to develop networking with organisations and individuals involved with the study of reptiles around the world.

  • Describe a range of different reptile species, including distinguishing characteristics, their needs (e.g. environmental, food, etc.) and behaviour.

  • Identify and explain the anatomy and physiology of reptiles

  • Discuss the nature and scope of amphibians

  • Identify credible resources, and begin to develop networking with organisations and individuals involved with the study of amphibians around the world.

  • Discuss the nature and scope of amphibians

  • Identify credible resources, and begin to develop networking with organisations and individuals involved with the study of amphibians around the world.

  • Describe the ecological requirements, reproduction and life cycles of amphibians

  • Describe the behaviour of a range of different amphibian species.

  • Explain conservation issues that are impacting upon populations of reptiles and amphibians.

  • Explain the management of reptiles and amphibians in captivity



Reptiles include turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodiles. They are ectothermic (cold-blooded) vertebrates. They can live independently from the water and ambient air humidity due to their drying-resistant integument (skin) and they have foetal membranes that protect their embryos (egg shells or membranes).

Reptiles are classified into the class Reptilia.

Living reptiles can be divided into the following subclasses:
• Subclass Anapsida (turtles)
• Subclass Lepidosauria (tuataras, scaled reptiles)
• Subclass Archosauria (crocodilians)

These subclasses can then be further divided into orders and families.

Subclass Anapsida.

Animals within this subclass are distinguished by a skull that characteristically has no openings in bone that covers the temporal area. These animals are ancient and many consider them to be ancestors to all other groups of reptiles (for this reason they are called “stem reptiles”).

• Order Testudines (turtles) also referred to as Testudinata
o Suborder Chelydridae (snapping turtles)
o Suborder Pleurodira (side neck turtles)
Subclass Lepidosauria
• Order Rhynchocephalia (tuataras)
o Suborder Sphenodontida 

• Order Squamata (scaled reptiles – snakes and lizards)
o Suborder Sauria (lizards, skinks, geckos and monitors)
o Suborder Amphisbaenia (worm lizards)
o Suborder Ophidia (Serpentes) (snakes)

Subclass Archosauria

• Order Crocodilia (alligators, gharials, caimans  and crocodiles)

Note Lepidosauria and Crocodilia are sometimes considered “infra classes; which is a sub division of sub class.

Amphibians belong to the Class “Amphibia”

The class “Amphibia” is divided into three sub classes:
• Lepospondyli  (all representatives are extinct)
• Labyrinthodontia (all representatives are extinct)
• Lissamphibia  (all living amphibians belong to this group

The subclass “Lepospondyli” were slender bodied, aquatic animals. They evolved from fish and many retained physical characteristics similar to fish

The subclass “Labyrinthodontia” includes most of the species of amphibians that ever lived. They have all been extinct for more than 150 million years. They included both aquatic and terrestrial animals, of varying sizes, some as large as alligators. They are distinguished by a complicated teeth structure, and varied structure of vertebrae.

The sub class “Lissamphibia” encompases three orders of animals:
• Order Anura (Frogs and Toads)
• Order Apoda (Caecilians)
• Order Urodela (Salamanders and Newts)

Interacting with Reptiles and Amphibians

If you would like to be involved with reptiles and amphibians there are a number of possibilities that may interest you. These include:

  • Working in a zoo/wildlife park/nature centre

  • Working for government wildlife departments/agencies

  • Working for conservation groups

  • Working at a Natural History Museum

  • Working Reptile/amphibian photography

  • Researching and writing articles

  • Consulting

  • Wildlife tours

  • Interactive wildlife shows

  • Presenting information sessions

Or, of course, you can make a hobby out of herpetology and keep reptiles and amphibians as pets.


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Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.

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