Can Frog Breathe Underwater?

There are a lot of creatures that you may find in your local pond or lake. From fish and turtles to frogs and even alligators, a pond is a well-rounded ecosystem filled to the brim with life. Some of these animals are found living completely underwater and use gills for breathing oxygen from the water they live in. We all know that fish can breathe underwater, but can frogs breathe underwater?

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Frogs can not breathe underwater. However, tadpoles which are the offspring of frogs, can breathe underwater. Tadpoles hatch from eggs that frogs and toads lay in the water. Once the tadpoles hatch from their eggs, they use their tails for swimming and having gills so they can breathe underwater. After a few weeks of surviving in its environment, a tadpole will swap its gills for lungs and grow legs before turning into a frog and living on land.

As you continue to read this article, we will go over the entire lifespan of a frog. We will describe how a tadpole transforms into a frog. Furthermore, we will explain what a frog will eat during each stage in its life and some of the potential predators a frog will need to look out for.

 

The Life Cycle Of A Frog

The life of a frog has four distinct stages of life. During each of these stages, a frog will eat different foods and live in slightly different environments. Furthermore, a frog will need to watch out for different predators during each stage of its life.

 

Beginning As An Egg

The first stage of a frog’s life starts out as an egg. Frog eggs are typically laid in shallow water and in mass amounts. Your typical frog will lay anywhere from 500 to over 1,000 fertilized eggs. During this stage, some frogs will defend their nest of tadpoles. However, most nests of eggs are entirely on their own and will need to rely on luck in order to hatch. 

While inside of the egg, a frog is susceptible to the elements and makes easy prey for a vast amount of predators. Frog eggs make an easy snack for any predator looking for a snack. If a frog lays its eggs in a populated lake or pond, then fish will be a nuisance for these unhatched tadpoles. Frog eggs make an easy snack for birds as well. Being a helpless dark bead of protein for larger animals does not bode well for a frog. There have even been cases where one of the parents will eat some of the eggs for nourishment. 

Frog eggs look like tiny black dots that are suspended in a clear or transparent jelly. Inside each of the black dots is a developing tadpole waiting to hatch. While a tadpole is developing, it will slowly absorb the yolk surrounding it for nourishment. Once the tadpole has had enough time to develop, it will hatch from its egg and begin its second stage of life as a tadpole.

 

The Tadpole Stage

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When a frog hatches from its egg, it will have grown enough to become tadpoles and will start to swim around looking for shelter or food. In this stage, a tadpole will look like a small bead with a tail at the end of it. Tadpoles live completely underwater and will have gills behind their eyes to help them breathe underwater. 

During this stage in a frog’s life, they will typically have the same predators as they did when they were eggs. Fish make up the most common predators, followed by birds. But, depending on the species, other frogs can be a threat as well. 

While some frog species like the white-spotted bush frogs will protect their young for most of their tadpole life, most tadpoles are left entirely alone to fend for themselves. During most of the tadpole’s life, they will feed on plant matter like algae and moss to sustain themselves. Finally, however, some tadpoles will hunt and eat tiny insects that skate along the water’s surface called Gerridae or water skimmers. 

The detritus on the pond or lake floor can also be eaten by tadpoles and can even make up their entire diet until they become frogs because it is so readily available. Detritus is the collection of dead plant, animal, and bug matter that sinks to the bottom of a pond or lake.

If a tadpole can survive long enough, it will begin to sprout legs. When a tadpole is growing its legs, the front legs will begin to grow first, followed by the back legs. During this time, the tadpole’s tail will start to shrink as the tadpole absorbs it for nutrients. The tadpole’s tail will give it all the nutrients it needs so much that the tadpole will not need to look for other food sources. 

Once the tadpole’s legs are fully grown, the tadpole will start to grow its lungs. At this time, the tadpole’s tail is about half as long as it was before. As the tadpole continues to grow its lungs, its gills will slowly begin to fuse and disappear into its body. Eventually, the tadpole will need to start surfacing for air. Once its lungs are fully developed, that tadpole is now a juvenile frog and will hop onto land for the first time.

 

A Frogs First Step On Land

After the tadpole stage is when a frog is truly a frog, a juvenile frog or froglet will need to be on its toes. While their watering hole might be filled with potential predators, land is a whole different monster for a frog to overcome. 

During this stage in a frog’s life, fish and other aquatic creatures will no longer be predators to our frogs. However, our now air-breathing frogs need to be on the lookout for new and different predators. While birds still pose a significant threat to frogs, snakes, spiders, raccoons, and other mammals are all new threats to a frog’s life. 

Furthermore, a new froglet will start to feed on a new source of food. At this stage in a frog’s life, they will start to use their tongues to catch and eat prey. When a tadpole reaches the juvenile or froglet stage, they become purely carnivores and will start to hunt for nourishment. Nourishment comes in the form of small bugs and worms like:

 

  • Flies
  • Ants
  • Mosquitoes
  • Small Moths
  • Small Crickets
  • Small Grasshoppers
  • Small Worms
  • Bug Larvae like maggots and mealworms

 

Frogs will use their tongues and shoot them out at blinding speed to snag onto their prey. Most people think this is possible because frog tongues are sticky. This is not the case. Frog tongues are not sticky; rather, the saliva in a frog’s mouth makes their tongue seem sticky. Recent studies show that frog and toad saliva is a non-newtonian liquid, which is a liquid that does not follow the standard laws of liquids. 

Non-newtonian liquids show characteristics of both solids and liquids depending on how much pressure is applied to them. For example, in the case of a frog’s saliva, while it is in its mouth and coating its tongue, it is in a liquid state. However, when pressure is applied, frog saliva stiffens and can appear to stick to surfaces.

Furthermore, a frog’s tongue is super soft and is ten times softer than a human tongue. The softness of a frog’s tongue allows it to cover more of the frog’s prey. The super-soft tongue and the saliva make for a perfect pair. 

When the frog shoots its tongue out, it will be covered in saliva. As the tongue slams into the frog’s prey, the soft tongue will cover more of the prey’s body, allowing the frog’s saliva to cover more area. Due to the tongue literally slamming into the frog’s prey, it applies enough pressure, so the saliva show more of its solid nature and sticks to the prey, allowing the from to pull its tong back into its mouth with its target in tow.

While frogs are amphibians and like to stay near water, they prefer to hide higher up rather than on the ground. Unlike toads, frogs can climb and hang from walls, trees, and even leaves. Hiding higher up gives frogs an advantage and allows them to hide easier from their potential predators.

 

The Frog Reaches Adulthood

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After surviving all of the previous stages and living for a year or two, the frog finally reaches maturity and can start to breed to continue the cycle. As the frog grows, it will get larger, allowing it to eat larger prey. While an adult frog will eat the same prey as its juvenile state, it will also be able to hunt the adult forms of its previous prey. 

The same predators that hunted the frog during its juvenile stage will still be hunting the fully grown frog. However, with age comes experience, and the adult frog will be more adept at looking out for potential predators. Furthermore, our adult frog will also have better reflexes that are bolstered by stronger legs allowing them to jump faster and further than before.

When the time comes for mating season, common frog species will congregate in shallow water. During the months of March until late June, most frogs will be looking for mates to continue the cycle and lay eggs, while April is the best time for frogs to mate. Frogs will meet in shallow freshwater ponds and lakes en masse; furthermore, males will fight and compete to mate with females. While most males will be combating one another to pass on their seed, some males will forgo this, hop straight to the females, and begin mating. 

Once a female has successfully mated, she will slowly gestate her eggs over two to three months. Finally, at the beginning of summer, pregnant females will return to shallow water to give birth to their horde of eggs, beginning the cycle for a new generation of tadpoles.

Due to the nature of frogs, only 1 out of 50 eggs will be lucky enough to reach adulthood. This is because tadpoles and frog eggs are almost completely helpless and are easy picking for a swath of predators. However, frogs can live from 8 to 12 years, which allows them to breed multiple times and spawn thousands of tadpoles.

 

Final Thoughts

Frogs are amphibians, which means they live on land and near water. While adult and juvenile frogs can not breathe underwater, when they were tadpoles, they had gills that allowed them to do so. Eventually, a tadpole will live long enough to sprout legs and develop lungs, turning into frogs.

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