Southern Africa has a remarkably diverse and species-rich herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles, collectively), ranking as the most biologically diverse area on the African continent. In his 2001 book Amphibians of Central and Southern Africa, Allan Channing mentions that frogs (Anura) and the worm-like caecilians (Apoda) – but not the tailed salamanders (Caudata) – are the two groups of amphibians found on the subcontinent.  According to him, more than 200 species were known at the time and the number is still growing, mainly as a result of increasing interest in these fascinating animals and the advent of DNA-based diagnostic methods. Frogs, for example, are found in diverse habitats ranging from trees to mountain tops, to deserts, which make them an ideal group for investigating a broad spectrum of ecological and evolutionary questions.  Because of their sensitivity to environmental changes, they are useful as indicators of environmental integrity. 

As for reptiles, representatives from three of the four groups are found on the subcontinent. This includes tortoises (terrestrial species), terrapins (freshwater species), and turtles (marine species), constituting the Chelonia. There are also crocodiles (Crocodylia) and snakes, lizards and worm-lizards (Squamata). Details about the diversity on the subcontinent are summarised by Bill Branch on the Southern African Reptile Conservation Atlas (SARCA) website ( According to him, there are 498 reptile species (578 taxa if subspecies are included) in 116 genera and 23 families. As in the case of amphibians, these species occupy just about every conceivable niche, providing wonderful opportunities for ecological and evolutionary biological studies.

Description: Legless lizard. Tags: Herpetology UFS

Description: Legless lizard. Tags: Heretology UFS

Staff members

Postgraduate members

  • Mr Zhao Zhongning (MSc)
  • Mr Adriaan Jordaan (MSc)

Description: Colubrid spp snake. Tags: Hepetology UFS


Faculty Manager: Velaphi Makgwahla
T: + 27 51 401 3199

Marketing Manager: Elfrieda Lötter
T: +27 51 401 2531

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