With the Reptiles and Amphibians Gallery it starts the route through the thematic collections which also includes the Mammalian Gallery and the Mineral one. The finds, exposed in a systematic order, are part of the great naturalistic heritage of this Museum.
The first two showcases are devoted to Amphibians, naked skin vertebrates characterized by a complex life cycle (in fact, their name is derived from the Greek language and it means “double life”): usually, their larva is aquatic, finned and branchiate, while the adult is terrestrial and provided with four limbs and lungs. Nowadays there are less than 5.000 species of Amphibians, divided into three groups: anurous (frogs, toads, tree-frogs), urodelous (salamanders, tritons) and apods (blindworms). Among the exposed specimens, the Japanese giant salamander stands out, being one of the greatest living Amphibians.
The other showcases are devoted to Reptiles, terrestrial vertebrates which body is covered in scales. Nowadays about 6.000 species of Reptiles exist on Earth, and they are divided into three groups: loricates (crocodiles, alligators, gharials), chelonians (tortoises, testudos) and lepidosaurians (snakes, lizards, rhyncocephalians).
Loricates are semi-aquatic predators which body is covered in large dermal scales. In their showcase are exposed an alligator and a caiman, a Mississippi alligator skeleton and a gharial cranium.
Chelonians are easily recognizable because of the presence of a bone armor, covered with epidermal shields and divided into a dorsal carapace and a ventral plastron. Some species offer variations to this structure: e.g., the leatherback sea turtle, the biggest living chelonian, owns a cartilaginous carapace which includes thousands of little polygonal plates, as we can admire on the sample hanging on the wall. In a showcase a sea turtle, a pond turtle and a terrestrial tortoise are exposed to be compared.
Lepidosaurians are divided into three groups: ophidians (snakes), saurians (lizards, geckos, chameleons, monitor lizards, iguanas) and rhyncochephalians (tuataras). Rhyncocephalians, widespread during Mesozoic Era, are today represented only by two species of tuatara or sphenodon, like the one exposed here in formaldehyde. They are very peculiar Reptiles, being, for example, the only vertebrates to be provided with a “third eye”, that is having the pineal gland (epiphysis) which also can work as a photoreceptor.