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Sign the batrachology petition
Why batrachology is most accurate term
Why you should sign the petition


This page would not have been possible without the valuable input of batrachologists Dr. Andrew Crawford and Dr. Alain Dubois.


Batrachology is the study of amphibians. Most people use the term "herpetology", but this term signifies the study of amphibians and reptiles, two groups wth extremely different evolutionary and life histories. Evolutionary biologists all agree that taxonomy should reflect natural groups (i.e. monophyletic clades), and thus the current polyphyletic concept of herpetology is incorrect and should be refined.

As such, we request you sign the Batrachology Petition, and phase out future usage of the prefix "herpeto" when you are not referring to reptiles. With support from the batrachological community, this change in terminology can be implemented with as much ease and rapidity as have any of the changes in species names that have taken place in recent years.

Is batrachology the best term?

Let us first examine some related terms

"Amphibia de Blainville, 1816" is the correct nomen for the class including all non-amniote vertebrates ("Amphibia Linnaeus, 1758" corresponds to a polyphyletic group including amphibians, reptiles and several groups of "fishes"). This nomen derives from the Greek "amphi" = "on both sides" and "bios" = "life".

The class Amphibia contains several all-fossil subclasses (still not consensual among specialists), and a single subclass including all recent species, the "Neobatrachi Sarasin & Sarasin, 1890", a term derived from the Greek "neos" = "new" and "batrachos" = frog.

The Neobatrachi contain two superorders, the Batrachia and the Gymnophiona.

"Batrachia Brongniart, 1800" is the correct nomen for the superorder containing the Anura and the Urodela. It derives from the Greek "batrachos" = "frog".

"Anura Duméril, 1806" is the correct nomen for the order including the frogs. It derives from the Greek "an-" = "without" and "oura" = "tail".

"Urodela Duméril, 1806" is the correct nomen for the order including the salamanders. It derives from the Greek "oura" = "tail" and "delos" = "visible". Some authors, especially in America, use the term Caudata for this group, but this is incorrect, as this term was coined by Scopoli, 1777 for a polyphyletic group including the salamanders, the lizards and the crocodiles.

"Gymnophiona Rafinesque-Schmaltz, 1814" is the correct nomen for the superorder/order including the cecilians. It derives fromp the Greek "gymnos" = "naked" and "ophis" = "snake".

Finally, "Erpeton' in Greek is a noun meaning "creeping animal", hence "reptile, snake". It derives from the Greek verb "erpo", meaning "I creep, I crawl". It was introduced in scientific literature by Klein (1755) as "herpetologia".

Now a comparison of possible terms

The correct nomenclature for the group including Anura, Urodela and Gymnophiona is Neobatrachi, but "neobatrachiology" would be too long and awkward for a common use. The term amphibiology, on the other hand, is based on Amphibia, a nomen which designates not only the recent amphibians but also several all-fossil groups such as Temnospondyli and Lepospondyli (i.e. all non-amniotic tetrapods). Amphibiology, although etymologically meaning amphibio-logy (study of amphibians) contains the term "biology", so it could appear to some as a term meaning "double biology" ("amphi-bios" = double life). Thus, amphibiology may be misinterpreted.

The term batrachology is therefore preferred, as it is clear, concise and points undoubtedly to "frogs" (batrachos in Greek). Furthermore, the term amphibiology has almost never been used for our discipline, but batrachology has been used in the journal Alytes since 1982, and in Biological Conservation since 2000, so it "established". Let us leave amphibiology for the overall study of fossil and non-fossil amphibians.

Why you should sign the Batrachology Petition

Two hundred and fifty years of tradition is not easily overcome. It is the inherent tendency of humans to avoid change. Further, there will inevitably be those who will label us as "secessionists" and try to stifle this movement. Thus we do indeed need your support for this batrachological initiative to succeed. So how does signing the Batrachology Petition help?

(1) Your signature constitutes your acceptance of the proper terminology and your active intention to make the relevant changes in your speeches and writing, so as to not perpetuate the incorrect and detrimental terminology of a bygone era.

(2) The quantity of signatories and their names (which are visibly displayed on the petition page) will give support to this initiative and serve to empower any hesitant or equivocal biologists to indeed do the correct thing: sign the Batrachology Petition and abandon their incorrect usage of flawed terminology.

(3) The success of this initiative depends on our ability to communicate this change to a large number of scientists worldwide. The Batrachology Petition serves as an excellent means to spread the message, and we hope you will write your colleagues informing them you signed the petition and asking them to do the same.


We support the use of the terms batrachology, batrachologist and batrachofauna when referring to modern-day amphibians. If you support this initiative, please sign the Batrachology Petition and ask your colleagues to do so as well.

I signed the petition, now what?

(1) Have a website? Please link to this page.
(2) Ask your colleagues to sign the petition.

What do you think?

Feel free to post your thoughts as a reply to this thread in the FrogForum.

Return to the Actions Homepage.