Do Frogs Lay Eggs?

Frogs lay eggs, but they look very different from those of a chicken. The first time I saw frog eggs when I was a kid I thought someone had thrown a whole bunch of chia seeds into a pond. But frog eggs are wonderful and complex embryos that transform into incredible tadpoles.

As a general rule, frogs lay 2 to 30,000 eggs once or twice per year depending on the species and climate. Most frog species reproduce externally, sexually, and by amplexus. Frogs generally lay eggs in water among vegetation so the eggs do not float away.

Let’s have a closer look at the common rule of how most frogs lay eggs, as well as some exceptions to how frogs lay eggs.

Do Frogs Lay Eggs or Give Birth? 

As a general rule, frogs lay eggs in water, reproduce sexually, externally, and by amplexus. However, some frogs can give birth to tadpoles or young frogs, like the Fanged Frog that can directly give birth to live tadpoles, and African toads can give birth to toadlets.

Here are some examples of frogs that give birth in their own ways:

  • Fanged Frogs are the only known frog species that can give birth to live tadpoles. 
  • Male Darwin Frogs swallow their developing tadpoles and carry them inside their bodies near their vocal sac until they are fully formed. When they are ready, he regurgitates them and the baby frogs jump out.

A study on African Toads found that they have evolved to reproduce on land where access to water is more difficult:

“Steep terrain and low accumulation of water bodies are strong predictors of the occurrence of terrestrial reproduction whereas climatic variables such as humidity, precipitation and temperature less so.” 

Liedtke et al 2017

Frogs are generally adaptable animals and climate change may continue to force them to adapt in such ways where continuous access to clean water may become more and more scarce. Help frogs in your area by providing them safe places to live (CTNF).

What Frogs Lay Eggs on Land? 

The vast majority of frogs lay eggs in water, however, African Toads, Fanged Frogs, Glass Frogs, and Solomon Island Leaf Frogs and other tree frogs may carry their eggs, lay them on land, or above water.

Very few frog species are known to lay eggs on land without water due to the need for their tadpoles to develop in a wet environment. However, some frogs have adapted to dry or harsh environments and the presence of predators by laying their eggs on land:

  • Solomon Island Leaf Frogs lay their eggs in clutches in the ground
  • Glass Frogs lay their eggs above the river and streams so once the tadpoles develop, they can drop down into the water
  • Bombay Night Frogs lay their eggs on leaves in trees

Tree frogs may lay their eggs in trees above water to keep them safe from predators on the ground. The eggs drop into the water once they are tadpoles that have a few more defense mechanisms than eggs that cannot move or escape.

Do Frogs Stay With Their Eggs? 

The vast majority of frog species do not stay with their eggs after birth. Some species in harsh environments do remain with their eggs such as the male Darwin Frogs that swallow their kin until they can jump out of their mouths, or male African Bullfrogs that ensure their eggs always have access to water.

Depending on their environment, conditions, and the number of eggs the frog species lays, some frogs have evolved and adapted to keep their eggs safe from natural forces and predators. Some frogs may keep their eggs inside their bodies until they develop into froglets, others may carry them on their backs.

Here are some frogs that remain with their eggs and care for their kin:

  • Male Darwin Frogs swallow the developing tadpoles and carry them near their vocal sac until they are fully formed. When they are ready, he regurgitates them. This keeps the eggs safe from natural forces and predators.
  • African Bullfrogs remain with their tadpoles to ensure they always have access to water. Although these frogs certainly mean well, they may kill their offspring while digging moats to provide them water, or by eating their eggs or tadpoles as snacks.
  • Poison Dart Frogs lay their eggs in a different temporary puddle in the rainforest and return to them to feed their tadpoles. They remember exactly where they left all their tadpoles and feed them multiple times a day.
  • Female Suriname Toads carry their eggs on their back and their skin grows around the eggs to encase them and hold them in place until they become tadpoles.
  • Rocket Poison Dart Frogs may carry their tadpoles on their backs.
  • Female Gastrotheca Frogs carry their eggs in a dorsal brood pouch near the female’s lower back.

More About Frog Eggs

Frog eggs are not just chia-seed-looking blobs in water. They are complex creatures that transform multiple times until they can hop and live on land. 

Learn more about frogs and their eggs in the following guides on our blog:

Common Questions About Frog Eggs

Do frogs lay eggs? As a general rule, frogs lay 2 to 30,000 eggs once or twice per year depending on the species. Frogs lay eggs during the mating season between March and July in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Frogs reproduce sexually by amplexus and lay eggs in water among vegetation so they do not float away.

Do frogs die after laying eggs? Frogs do not die after laying eggs, however, depending on the number of frogs mating, the size of the water pool, and amount of predators, frogs may die during or after reproduction due to external circumstances. Generally, they may be eaten, attacked by other frogs, or drown during amplexus.

What are frog eggs called? Frog eggs are called frog eggs or frogspawn. Frog eggs do not hatch like chicken eggs, but rather transform throughout the toad life cycle into tadpoles, froglets, and then into adult frogs. Frog eggs feed off the yolk in their egg until they develop mouths to eat algae.

Sources

Liedtke H. Christoph, Müller Hendrik, Hafner Julian, Penner Johannes, Gower David J., Mazuch Tomáš, Rödel Mark-Oliver and Loader Simon P. 2017 Terrestrial reproduction as an adaptation to steep terrain in African toads Proc. R. Soc. B.2842016259820162598

http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2598

Venegas, Pablo J.; García-Ayachi, Luis A.; Echevarría, Lourdes Y.; Paluh, Daniel J.; Chávez–Arribasplata, Juan C.; Marchelie, Axel; Catenazzi, Alessandro (2021-04-09). “A new species of marsupial frog (Anura; Gastrotheca) from the Cordillera de Colán in northeastern Peru”. Vertebrate Zoology. 71: 201–218. doi:10.3897/vz.71.e60097. ISSN 2625-8498