Herpetology Course

Herpetology Spring 1997

This class was last offered in 1997, many links are now broken.


David Cannatella catfish@mail.utexas.edu PAT 650
David Hillis dhillis@mail.utexas.edu PAT 132
Eric Pianka pianka@mail.utexas.edu PAT 125
Mike Ryan mryan@mail.utexas.edu PAT 107
Steve Poe stevepoe@mail.utexas.edu PAT 656


12:30-2:00, Tuesday and Thursday; RLM 6.112


6:00-10:00pm Tuesday, ESB 202


This course will survey the biology of amphibians and reptiles, from molecular systematics to community ecology. The lecture component consists of three areas: (1) Systematics, Biogeography, and Genetics, (2) Population and Community Ecology, and (3) Behavior and Physiology. The lab component covers morphology, diversity, and taxonomy with emphasis on the local fauna. Field trips are included.


Read our manifesto about teaching herpetology, posted on the Pianka lab web site.


Conant and Collins' A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America (1992, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston) is strongly recommended for use in lab and during field trips; this is available in the University Coop and at various bookstores. The Coop will have some copies of The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians, edited by Halliday and Adler (1986, Facts on File, Oxford) and also Biology of Amphibians by Duellman and Trueb (paperback, 1986, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore). Other books that provide general background are Introduction to Herpetology by Zug (1993, Academic Press, San Diego) and Morphology and Biology of Reptiles (1976, A. d'A. Bellairs and B. C. Cox, Academic Press, London). More detailed review articles can be found in the several volumes of the series Biology of the Reptilia, edited by Carl Gans.


Undergrad Grad  
Lecture Exam 1 20% 15%
Lecture Exam 2 20% 15%  
Lecture Exam 3 20% 15%  
Paper -- 15%  
Lab Quiz x 5 6% x 5 = 30% 6% x 5 = 30%  
Participation 2% 2%  
Field Notebook 8% 8%  


In addition to the exams, quizzes and notebook, graduate students will be asked to write a paper on some aspect of amphibian and reptile biology, on a topic chosen in consultation with the appropriate instructor. The topic may not deal with the student's primary thesis research but side-projects are acceptable. The paper should be prepared, both in format and scientific content, as if it were being submitted for publication. The finished paper is due May 9th, by 5 pm.

Field Notebook and Field Trips:

All students will keep a field notebook to record observations made on herps during field trips and at other times. These will be due at the end of the course, and will be returned. Tentative weekend field trip dates are

  • 28-30 March
  • 11-13 April
  • 25-27 April

Some more spontaneous day trips on Saturday will happen. All field trips are optional.

Pianka's Lectures

Lab Schedule

14 Jan Cancelled
21 1 Orientation; Basic Morphology
28 2 World Amphibians
4 Feb 3 World Reptiles Quiz (labs 1-2)
11 4 Museum trip
18 5 Texas Salamanders Quiz (labs 3-5)
25 6 Texas Frogs
4 Mar 7 Texas Frogs
18 8 Texas Turtles/crocs Quiz (labs 6-8)
25 9 Texas Lizards
1 April 10 Texas Lizards
8 11 Texas Snakes Quiz (labs 9-11)
15 12 Texas Snakes
22 13 Frog calls
29 14 TBA Quiz (labs 12-14)

Lab Notes

  • Download Lab 3 (World Reptiles) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Lab 4 (Salamanders of Texas) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Labs 5 and 6 (Frogs of Texas) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Lab 7 (Turtles and Crocs of Texas) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Lab 8 (Lizards of Texas I) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Lab 9 (Lizards of Texas II) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Lab 10 (Snakes of Texas I) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
  • Download Lab 11 (Snakes of Texas II) Handout as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)

Other Links

If you know of good links to herp stuff, send these to David Cannatella.

Download this figure as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf).
Last updated April 17, 1997 by LMB.