Do Frogs Have Hair?

Frogs are so diverse and unique with over 7,400 species around the world. I discussed how frogs have teeth, but toads do not in other articles on this blog, yet another fun question to examine is if frogs have hair. This can be especially confusing since some frog species have what looks like hair. 

Just look at the beautifully Photoshopped image above! The internet and social media make it hard to know what is real and what is fake; like if frogs have hair or not.

Frogs do not have hair strands or hair follicles on their skin since their porous skin is necessary for vital functions such as breathing and drinking. However, frogs do have hair-like structures called cilia. Wolverine Frogs have trichome dermal papillae, which can resemble hair strands.

Although there may be misconceptions about certain frog species having hair, there are various logical explanations for all frogs’ physical traits and characteristics. Join us as we discuss frog skin, why they don’t have hair, and what features can resemble hair within certain frog species. 

Frogs Do Not Have Hair But Do Have Cilia

Frogs commonly have very thin hair-like structures on their bodies called cilia. Although they resemble fine hair strands, cilia cannot be seen with the naked eye. These microscopic strands protect frogs’ skin and help propel them through the water when they swim.

Frogs do not have hair, and their skin is more similar to that of a dolphin. These creatures lack hair strands and hair follicles on their skin, meaning that it would be impossible for them to grow hair on their bodies. Frogs generally have moist, slimy, thin, and delicate skin, as these characteristics are conducive to their skin vital functions. 

Unlike warm-blooded animals, frogs do not need hair to maintain thermoregulation. Since frogs are cold-blooded, they use their surroundings to regulate their body temperature. Frogs will move to cooler areas to lower their body temperatures or shift into hotter spots to warm up.

Why Don’t Frogs Have Hair?

Frogs do not have hair because they are cold-blooded, breathe and drink through their skin, and aquatic frogs live in water. Hair would be a nuisance to diving, swimming, breathing, and drinking for frogs. Frogs do not have hair follicles on their bodies and so they do not grow hair like humans.

Frogs Do Not Need Hair

The primary reason for frogs lacking hair relates to their living necessities and lifestyle. Hair is predominantly made up of keratin, and its structure supports various functions in many animals. It serves as protection from external factors, helps animals control their body temperature, and much more. 

But, the dense composition of hair would cause various problems for frogs as their skin is incredibly sensitive, and hair would inevitably block off their skin from external factors. It may seem like hair would be a harmless addition to a frog, but such a design could cause potentially fatal outcomes for frogs (CTNF).

Frogs Breathe Through Their Skin

Frogs use their skin for breathing in just about every situation, whether on land, underwater, or even underground. They use their skin to absorb oxygen directly into their bodies, which allows them to extract oxygen from water or soil.

Having hair follicles and strands upon their skin would hinder this process, as it would block the absorption of oxygen. If frogs had hair on their bodies, they would undoubtedly suffer from health problems caused by an overall lack of oxygen or would ultimately suffocate over time.

Frogs Drink Through Their Skin

Frogs also use their permeable skin for drinking. They can absorb moisture from numerous external sources with the right conditions, such as water, moist soil, or humid air. Since frogs demand water for survival, this function of the skin is incredibly important. 

Green Frog Pond-min
A frog I found breathing and drinking and breathing through it’s skin

Having hair on their skin’s surfaces would make it difficult for moisture to be absorbed into their bodies, even if they were dwelling inside a water body. Issues with this bodily function would cause health problems or death due to severe dehydration over time. 

So frogs do not have hair, but one frog species called the Wolverine Frog has what looks like hair on its body. Let’s have a closer look at this species in more detail.

There Are Some ‘Hairy’ Frog Species

The Wolverine Frog (Trichobatrachus robustus), otherwise known as the Horror Frog or Hairy Frog, that lives in west-central African rainforests, has managed to convince many animal enthusiasts that frogs have hair. However, this frog’s “hair-like” structures are actually trichome dermal papillae.

Wolverine Frogs generally inhabit rainforests in Guinea, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Congo. They can grow to approximately 4.3 inches in length. Although, they can also be smaller, and males are typically larger than females. They may also be found in caves, wooded areas, and forests. 

To date, the Wolverine Frog is the only known frog species that flaunts a hairy appearance. This frog species is not endangered and is also incredibly dangerous, as it can cause severe damage to animals or humans when it tries to defend itself. This frog species gets its name from various similarities to the sci-fi Wolverine character, including a hairy appearance and sharp claws that can emerge by breaking through the skin. 

Apart from its claws, the hairy appearance on its abdomen and legs mostly baffles animal lovers and amphibian enthusiasts. However, the Wolverine Frog does not have hair, much like any other frog. These hair-like structures are trichomes classified as dermal papillae, defined as physical extensions of the skin. 

While the overall appearance of these structures can resemble hair strands, it’s important to note the visible differences. These trichomes are shaped differently to fine and generally uniform hair strands, and the texture is still similar to frog skin. As a result, these trichomes are typically slimy and moist.

Wolverine Frogs Use Their “Hair” to Breathe Longer Underwater

Dermal papillae often appear during mating season, as their functionality allows Wolverine Frogs to focus more of their energy on caring for their young. Scientists believe that male Wolverine Frogs have these extensions since they spend more time underwater with their young than females and need additional tools to help them breathe.

These dermal papillae are finger-like structures that contain numerous blood vessels that function similarly to external gills. While these trichomes are useful in shielding Wolverine Frogs from harmful external influences in the environment, they greatly enhance overall bodily functions as well. 

They increase the external area that connects the epidermis and dermis, increasing the surface area that can be used for absorption. These dermal papillae include arteries, allowing Wolverine Frogs to absorb more oxygen from the environment through the skin. They also support other functions such as nutrient absorption. 

More About Frog Hair

Although frog species can appear to be hairy in some cases, and although you may see some funny Photoshopped images online, frogs do not have hair. For frogs, hair strands would cause trouble breathing, drinking, and surviving overall. Hair-like structures comprise complex anatomy that is beneficial for the frog species, depending on their needs within their habitats. 

Learn more about frog characteristics on our blog:

Sources

Barej, Michael & Böhme, Wolfgang & Perry, Steven & Wagner, Philipp & Schmitz, Andreas. (2010). The hairy frog, a curly fighter? – A novel hypothesis on the function of hairs and claw-like terminal phalanges, including their biological and systematic significance (Anura: Arthroleptidae: Tricho batrachus). Revue suisse de zoologie; annales de la Société zoologique suisse et du Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Genève. 117. 243-263. 10.5962/bhl.part.117784.