Reptile and Amphibian Defense Strategies

Grade Levels: 5 - 12


Students will understand a range of defensive strategies used by herps.


  • Live specimen or photo of the eft stage of the eastern newt
  • Dried rattlesnake rattles (available through biological supply companies)
  • Hand lenses


  1. If possible, have the students collect an eastern newt from the floor of the forest during the spring, summer, or fall. They usually can be seen walking around on the surface by day, especially under moist conditions. Keep the newt in a moist environment, with leaves and soil for cover, and return it to its home within an hour or two at most.

  2. Have the students examine the live specimen or photo of the eft stage of the eastern newt, noting the pattern of its coloration. Where is it brightest: back or belly? Drawing on the Eastern Newt Species Account, discuss the newt's life stages and migration, and the fact that it is toxic.

  3. Have students examine the rattlesnake rattle using a hand lens to get a close look. What is the rattle made of? How is it attached?

  4. Have students compare how the red eft and rattlesnake ward off predators. Point out that the eft uses coloration to warn away potential predators and reduce the likelihood of being eaten while it moves between habitats. In contrast, the rattlesnake generally stays put and uses its rattle to warn away intruders.
View background information on Reptile and Amphibian Defense Systems.

Excerpted from Hands-On Herpetology.

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