Are Ducks Amphibians? (No!)

Due to the fact that ducks live generally between water and land, it’s only natural that someone might be confused and consider them amphibians.

Well, it’s wrong. Ducks are birds and not amphibians, they are waterfowl to be precise.

What Are Amphibians?

Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Amphibians are a group of animals that live on land and in water and have some form of limbless (terrestrial) existence. The majority of amphibians are tetrapods, which means they are able to breathe via lungs, but still have fully developed legs. Remaining in the groups of tetrapods, there are also the ones that still retain their limbs for a more terrestrial survival – lizards and snakes, for example.

Most amphibians do not have lungs, but instead use gills for breathing underwater or directly through their skin. Yet many species still do have lungs like frogs and newts do – how interesting.

Continuing on the topic of how some amphibians are able to obtain oxygen for breathing, there is a wide variety in the types of methods used.

To help retain water, many amphibians have slits in the ribs or gums that help keep them hydrated, while others use bony (hollow) bones called pneumatophores to help retain water. It seems that this bone/skin combination greatly varies as well, as not all amphibians have it or may lack it altogether.

There are over 710 known species of amphibian worldwide. However, with so many different kinds and variations of each one, they can be hard to keep track of sometimes. The differences between their physiology and general appearance can make it challenging to classify them based off just their appearance alone (I know I was amazed at first!).

Amphibians can be visualized as vertebrates with stylized feet or hands plus a long slim body covered in hair or scales; it’s pretty simple when we consider their general morphology. The further you go down the branches of the phylum, the more examples you see that show some form of limbless (terrestrial) existence.

Differences Between Birds And Amphibians

Image by Freddy from Pixabay

Birds and amphibians are fundamentally different from one another as well

The most striking difference between birds and amphibians is that:

Birds Are Warm Blooded While Amphibians Are Cold Blooded

Birds are warm blooded animals so Animals that maintain a nearly constant body temperature despite fluctuations in environmental temperature, while amphibians are Animals that cannot adjust their body temperature according to the temperature of their surroundings.

Warm blooded animals typically have larger body sizes.

Birds Have Body Structure That Is Optimized For Flight While Amphibians Are Small With Minimum Body Strength

Birds have relatively large surface area (body shape) that allows them to sustain longer periods of flight. While amphibians tend to have more streamlined and low body weight, they are smaller in size than birds.

To counteract their lack of body structure and body weight, they will employ barbels (whiskers) which are an extension of the outermost fibers of the skin that are used for sensing touch and water.

Birds Have A Combination Of Feathers And Hair That Allow Them To Be More Flexible While Amphibians Are Striated Like Stone

Bird feathers, while amazing and intricate, take a lot of energy to maintain. Birds have a lot of feathers that are able to adapt to changes in temperature and direction.

Amphibians like frogs, have rigid skin and scales (hard organs made of keratin that provide protection). Birds are the only birds that have hair (which is the soft epidermis covering the skin) while other birds are naked.

Amphibians Have Gills, Birds Don’t

Amphibians have gills, gills are a part of the respiratory system that allows them to take in oxygen and exchange carbon dioxide between the water and body. Birds, on the other hand, don’t have gills, but they have lungs, so they can not breath underwater.

Similarities Between Birds And Amphibians

For starters, both groups of animals lay eggs, although the process of laying eggs is different between them. In birds, the egg is incubated. While in frogs, the eggs are laid externally, covered by foam that protect them from predators.

See Also: Are Ducks Mammals Or Reptiles?

In Summary

Ducks are absolutely not amphibians, they are birds, more specifically waterfowl.

The confusion must come from the fact that ducks spend time between land and water, but amphibians are a radically different group of animals with only few characteristics relating to both birds and waterfowl.