Field Guide

Reptiles and Amphibians

Showing 1 - 10 of 16 results
Media
Image of a northern cottonmouth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Agkistrodon piscivorus
Description
The cottonmouth is named for the cotton-white lining of its mouth, which it opens widely when alarmed. This dangerously venomous, semiaquatic snake occurs in the southeastern corner of Missouri, with a spotty distribution in the Ozark Region.
Media
hellbender, a large brown salamander resting in gravelly streambed
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis
Description
The eastern hellbender is a large, entirely aquatic salamander with a wide, flat head, small, lidless eyes, and soft folds of skin on the sides. In Missouri, it occurs in the northern Ozark highlands in spring-fed rivers that drain north into the Missouri and Meramec river drainages.
Media
Eastern Spiny Softshell
Species Types
Scientific Name
Apalone spinifera spinifera
Description
The eastern spiny softshell is a medium to large softshell turtle with small bumps or spines on the front edge of the upper shell. There are dark spots on the fore- and hind limbs.
Media
Image of a yellow-bellied watersnake
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nerodia erythrogaster
Description
The plain-bellied watersnake is a medium-sized, heavy-bodied, dark-colored, semiaquatic snake with a plain yellow belly. It is found throughout southeastern Missouri and north along the Mississippi River floodplain.
Media
Diamond-Backed Watersnake
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nerodia rhombifer rhombifer
Description
The northern diamond-backed watersnake is our largest watersnake. It has light-colored, diamond-shaped markings along the back. It's common in the southeastern corner and over northern and western Missouri, but it doesn’t occur in the Ozarks or in our extreme northern counties.
Media
Image of graham's crayfish snake
Species Types
Scientific Name
Regina grahamii
Description
Graham's crawfish snake is a medium-sized, dull-colored, semiaquatic snake known from prairie streams, marshes, and ponds. Like most other snakes associated with water, it is often misidentified as a cottonmouth and needlessly killed.
Media
Photo of researcher holding a gilled siren
Species Types
Scientific Name
Siren intermedia nettingi
Description
The western lesser siren is an eel-like, aquatic salamander with external gills, small eyes, small forelimbs with four toes, and no hind limbs. In Missouri, it’s found mostly in the Bootheel and northward in counties near the Mississippi River.
Media
Red River mudpuppy resting on a gravel stream bottom
Species Types
Scientific Name
Necturus maculosus maculosus
Description
Mudpuppies are aquatic salamanders that have plumelike external gills throughout their entire lives. They’re found in the southern half and along the eastern edge of Missouri.
Media
Ozark Hellbender
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi
Description
The eastern hellbender is a large, entirely aquatic salamander with a wide, flat head, small, lidless eyes, and soft folds of skin on the sides. In Missouri, it occurs only in the southern Ozark Highlands in spring-fed sections of the Black River system and North Fork of the White River system.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Clonophis kirtlandii
Description
Kirtland’s snake is small, hard to find, and occurs in only a few states in the Midwest. It uses mainly crayfish burrows in grassland habitats that are damp and near a stream or wetland. It is extremely rare.
See Also

About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri

Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.