Frequently-Asked Frog Questions
What's the difference between a frog and a toad?
Frogs usually have smooth, moist skin and spend most of their lives
in or near water. Toads usually have dry, warty-looking skin and
spend more time living on land.
Scientifically, things are a more complicated. Besides the true frogs
(Ranidae) and toads (Bufonidae), there are separate
families for tree frogs, spadefoot toads, poison-arrow frogs, and
several other groups. The order that contains all the frogs and toads
is called Salientia (from a Latin word that means "leaping")
or Anura ("tailless"). Here is the
family tree that shows how the frog and toad families are grouped.
What do frogs eat?
Frogs and toads are carnivores -- that is, they eat
other animals, typically bugs and worms. Frogs are beneficial to humans
because they eat so many insect pests. Some large species of frogs, like the
African bullfrog, will try to eat just about anything, including
other frogs as well as small fish, reptiles, and mammals.
Why do frogs jump?
There are lots of animals (like alligators, snakes, owls, and even
people) who think that frogs make tasty snacks. Since frogs don't
have sharp teeth or claws to defend themselves against predators, the
best thing they can do to avoid being eaten is to escape as quickly as
possible when they spot a hungry-looking animal approaching them.
Sproinnggg!!! Some kinds of frogs can jump distances
up to 20 times their own body length in a single leap. When
disturbed, frogs often jump into a puddle or pond where they can hide
underwater. Their erratic zig-zag jumping on land also serves to
confuse potential predators.
Why do frogs croak?
In most frog species only the males croak. They croak to attract
female frogs for breeding, and to warn away other male frogs from
their territory. Female frogs think croaking is very sexy.
Many kinds of frogs
puff themselves up
enormously with air when they
croak. This amplifies the sounds made by the frog's vocal chords,
kind of like how the stretched membrane of a drum works. This is
why a little critter like a frog can make such loud
So tell me more about frog sex!
Male frogs and toads are not particularly bright when it comes to sex.
They'll attempt to mate with anything that moves, including other
males and floating leaves. Eventually they'll figure out they've made
a mistake and try again with a different target. When they finally
find a female, they'll climb on her back so that they can fertilize
her eggs as she lays them. This mating grasp is called
amplexus. Male frogs have specially adapted
thumbs so that they can
hang on to the female's back even if she gets
bored and tries to hop away. The male frog also needs to hang on tightly
to the female because sometimes more males try to join in the fun in
a kind of
Most frogs and toads need to lay their eggs in water. Each female lays
thousands of eggs at a time, in strings or slimy masses. The eggs hatch
into tadpoles, which are very different from adult frogs. They
live exclusively in the water and breathe through gills instead of
lungs like an adult frog. They have a tail for swimming instead of
legs and arms for hopping. And tadpoles have a small rasping mouth
for scraping algae off the bottom of the pond instead of the wide
mouth and strong jaws suited to the adult frog's carnivorous diet.
The process of changing from a tadpole into an adult frog is called
metamorphosis. Depending on the species, it can take
a few weeks to a year or more for the tadpoles to grow up. Frogs and
toads who live in dry places where rains are seasonal have to grow up quickly
because the tadpoles will die if their temporary ponds dry up first.
Some kinds of frogs and toads have different ways to raise their
families. In some species, the eggs hatch directly into little
froglets and there is no tadpole stage at all.
One kind of treefrog builds
hanging nests; the tadpoles drop into water below as they hatch.
The Surinam Toad is probably the weirdest of all: it carries its
tadpoles around in a built-in nest in the spongy skin on its back.
How do frogs and toads survive in the winter?
They hibernate in burrows or bury themselves in mud. Frogs and toads are
cold-blooded and their body processes slow down as the outside temperature
drops. (This is why you sometimes find sluggish-acting toads on cool
mornings in the spring.) Frogs' bodies have some natural antifreeze
built into them, but some kinds of frogs who live in especially cold climates
can even survive being frozen solid.
Can frogs give you warts?
Don't be silly! Warts
are caused by a virus, not by frogs.
This common myth probably originated because many toads have
bumps on their skin that that look like warts. The large bumps behind
the toad's ears (the parotoid glands) contain a nasty
poison. It not only tastes bad but also irritates the mouth of any
predators who try to eat toads, and can cause convulsions or even death.
You should be careful in handling toads and always wash your hands
What's the biggest kind of frog?
goliath frog that is native to Cameroon in western Africa.
These frogs have bodies that are nearly a foot (30 cm) long and legs
that are even longer than that! Cane toads (also known as giant
toads or marine toads) and various species of bullfrogs also get pretty big.
At the other end of the scale, some species of tiny frogs, such as
may be less than half an inch (1 cm) long, even when they're fully
Can it really rain frogs?
Yes! It doesn't happen very often, but there are several known instances
where frogs have been sucked up by
tornadoes or violent winds associated with thunderstorms, and dropped
down out of the sky miles from their ponds.
Check out the Froggy Page's Scientific Amphibian
section for some links to articles on this subject.
Jump back to the