Visual Guide to Tadpoles of the Eastern United States

ABPRI is proud to host the Visual Guide to Tadpoles of the Eastern United States. This special guest post by Matthew Ratcliffe describes the history of the Guide and his purpose in developing it.

As a herpetology hobbyist, I’ve always wanted a comprehensive guide to identifying anuran tadpoles, which are notoriously difficult to determine down to the species level. I found that most online references only had one or two photos per species. Given the variability of tadpoles, this was not enough to remove some of the confusion surrounding their identification. While professional literature takes great lengths to explain the differences in tadpoles by species, most people do not have access to such books nor are they willing to pay the modest sum to acquire them. As a result, I was determined to create my own guide to tadpoles, using photos of tadpoles I had definitively identified as belonged to a particular species. My network of amateur and professional herpetologists voluntarily contribute their photos as well, and the project was launched on the Field Herp Forum ( in fall 2015.


Back then, the visual guide was a single post on the forum with species and their respective picture(s) listed vertically one after the other with marginally discernible breaks between each species. This was not a visually appealing format and made finding a particular species an exercise in scrolling through dozens of photos. Being largely clueless to webpage design, I put out a call for suggestions on how to migrate the guide to a more visually appealing format. That’s where my friend Noah stepped in, and he connected me with Lauren and the Ashton Biological Preserve website. Thanks to their gracious support, I am very pleased to announce that the latest and greatest iteration of this guide is now live! You’ll notice that each species has its own page, and the name of the original contributor of each photo appears when you scroll over each photo.

I hope that you find this guide useful towards improving your tadpole identification skills. If you would like to contribute high-quality photos to the guide, please contact me at You can also send contributions to

Thank you, and enjoy the guide!

Matt Ratcliffe

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