Discover Maryland's Herps

Maryland's Herp History

Amphibians are older than reptiles! The earliest amphibians appear in the fossil record in the late Devonian period, about 360 million years ago during a time when a great diversity of amphibians swam the seas. This “golden age” of amphibians ended tragically during the Triassic period, about 155 million years later, when nearly all species became extinct.

Being first in the evolutionary line, amphibians gave rise to the reptiles, which in turn gave rise to birds and mammals. Interestingly, there are no known fossils that directly link ancient amphibians to the groups of amphibians that currently exist, which include salamanders and newts, frogs and toads, and the worm-like caecilians.

Primitive reptiles first appeared about 315 million years ago during the Upper Carboniferous period. The earliest fossil reptile was a small lizard-like terrestrial animal found inside a fossilized tree stump. Reptiles eventually gave rise to the turtles and tortoises, swimming reptiles, crocodiles, dinosaurs, flying reptiles, tuataras, lizards and snakes, and mammal-like dinosaurs.

For more information see Maryland Dinosaurs on the Maryland Geological Survey website:

As interesting as herp history is, nothing can compare to the present.
Turn over a rock or two and discover how fascinating Maryland herps can be!

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Maryland Amphibian
and Reptile Atlas Project

"A Joint Project of the Natural History Society of Maryland, Inc. and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources"

For monthly newsletters of the Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas Project click on Recent Newsletters and scroll down to the MARA Newsletters.

The Maryland Herpetology Field Guide is a cooperative effort of the MD Natural Heritage Program and the MD Biological Stream Survey within the Department of Natural Resources and their partners. We wish to thank all who contributed field records, text, and photographs, as well as support throughout its development.