The best reptile and amphibian field guide
If you're fascinated by frogs, snakes, and turtles, then you probably enjoy researching them, too. That's why you should invest in a reptile and amphibian field guide.
These guides compile the information you need to identify reptiles and amphibians, right down to their markings, behaviors, and even vocalization patterns. They're formatted for quick reference and easy navigation, so you're able to identify a species before they slither, hop, or crawl away from you.
To make sure you have a reptile and amphibian field guide the next time you're in the wild, take a look at our buying guide. Our top pick is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: North America. Its compact design makes it easy to carry along on outdoor adventures.
Considerations when choosing reptile and amphibian field guides
Regional: Regional guides focus on specific areas such as states or by climate. Because there are so many species worldwide or continent-wide, these region-specific books offer a focused sampling for quicker, accurate identification.
North America: North American field guides offer broad overviews of the most common species throughout the continent. These guides are sometimes divided by region, species, or other taxonomic breakdown. They don't include a detailed profile for every single species, meaning it's not unusual to come across a reptile or amphibian that doesn't appear in your guide.
Other locales: Locale-specific guides are especially popular among traveling students and enthusiasts. These are good for those who travel to exotic destinations known for high concentrations of different reptiles and amphibians.
Age range and purpose
When it comes to choosing reptile and amphibian field guides, audience is everything, so choose one that's age-appropriate. There are plenty of kid-friendly guides that feature more images and larger text. There's also a wide variety of educational ones geared toward adults, which are far more detailed and technical.
If you intend to bring a reptile and amphibian field guide on an outdoor excursion, you want it to fit in your backpack. Some guides are compact and flexible for this reason, and they feature sturdier covers to withstand the rough and tumble of your journey. Otherwise, full-size guides range in size from mass market paperbacks to large textbooks.
Reptile and amphibian field guides can feature photography, illustrations, infographics, or charts. These images are incredibly helpful when it comes to identifying species, as you can simply open up to a page and make a visual comparison. Many images are labeled, so you can become more acquainted with the anatomy and physiology of species.
Maps are indispensable parts of reptile and amphibian field guides, as they help narrow your options. In some cases, species can have many features in common, but with a quick look at the map in your guide, you're able to determine which one is before you.
Reptile and amphibian field guides contain a wealth of information. In addition to the basics, they can also include information about seasonal occurrences, ecology, or first aid.
Reptile and amphibian field guides cost between $6 and $20. For $10 and below, you can find straightforward guides with basic species information. Those priced around $12 feature more images and guides closer to $20 offer the most comprehensive roundup of information.
Q. What do I do if I think I've discovered a new species?
A. While unusual, it's not impossible. Take detailed notes, and if possible, photographic and video evidence of the animal. Share it with experts who can weigh in, such as an exotic animal veterinarian, wildlife sanctuary, or research university.
Q. How often should I get a new reptile and amphibian field guide?
A. Some people update theirs annually or pick up a new edition when it comes out. If you're a hobbyist and enjoy casual observation and identification, you don't need to update too often. On the other hand, if you want to explore new species at every opportunity, expect to buy new guides often -- and sometimes, more than one.
Reptile and amphibian field guides we recommend
Our take: A 160-species guide with detailed descriptions and identifying characteristics.
What we like: Striking 600-page, full-color book. Includes tips for encounters and pet care, as well as information on behavior and eating habits.
What we dislike: A lot of detail, so you need to get used to the format for quicker reference.
Best bang for your buck: National Geographic Pocket Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of North America
Our take: Provides an essential overview of species in an easy-reference format.
What we like: Stunning photography and helpful infographics. Logical arrangement of information and easy to read.
What we dislike: Focused guide -- it includes less than 150 species.
Our take: Highly detailed guide geared toward professional and amateur researchers alike.
What we like: Detailed drawings and multiple angles help with identification. Updated edition includes newly-recognized species and vocalization details.
What we dislike: Images are on the smaller side, though it's expected given the guide's detail.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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