Frogs vs Salamanders: Similarities and Differences

Amphibians are incredibly diverse, including different types of animals with various physical and behavioural traits. While frogs and salamanders have many similarities, they also have numerous differences that make each animal type unique.

Frogs and salamanders have similar skin profiles, diets, thermoregulation, and amphibian lifestyles, but, they differ in body shape, physical features, abilities, and behaviours. Both amphibian species are vital for the environment, as they maintain balance within ecosystems and act as bioindicators. 

Aquatic Frog I found in the wild
Salamander I found in the wild

While frogs and salamanders both fall within the Amphibia animal group, they are unique in various ways.

Here is a quick overview of the differences and similarities between frogs and salamanders:

Feature or TraitFrogsSalamanders 
Skin ProfileMoist and permeable
Drinking and breathing
Moist and permeable
Drinking and breathing
Defense MechanismsMucus secretions
Camouflage
Toxic secretions
Mimicking toxic species
Mucus secretions
Camouflage
Toxic secretions
Mimicking toxic species
Autonomy
Diet Predatory carnivores
Prey small enough to fit in the mouth
Cannot tear or bite prey
Must force it down with motion
Predatory carnivores
Prey small enough to fit in the mouth May use teeth and movement to tear prey
Thermoregulation EctothermicEctothermic
Life Cycle StagesEgg
Aquatic tadpole
Semi-aquatic froglet
Adult frog
Egg
Aquatic larvae
Salamander
Bioindicator YesYes
Habitats Aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial
Species-dependent
Aquatic or terrestrial
Conditions-dependent
Activity Nocturnal or diurnalNocturnal
Body ShapeStreamlined bodies
Four unevenly sized legs
Slender and long bodies
Four short and evenly sized legs
Physical FeaturesLonger hind legs
Webbed, padded, or shaped feet Gills are generally replaced by lungs with age
Long tails
Terrestrial salamanders develop lungs, but aquatic salamanders retain their gills into adulthood
Oral Features Long and sticky tongues
Small teeth for grip
Sticky and moist tongues
Teeth for grip and tearing
Egg ProfileJelly-like egg massesJelly-like egg packets
Two protective layers
Movement StyleWalking, swimming, climbing, and jumpingWalking, swimming, climbing.
Regeneration AbilitiesNoneTails, toes, and limbs

Join us as we discuss the similarities and differences between frogs and salamanders from birth until adulthood.

Similarities Between Frogs And Salamanders

Frogs and salamanders have quite a few traits in common, predominantly involving the physical and behavioral traits that classify these animals as amphibians

Skin Profile

Frogs and salamanders have moist and permeable skin that they use for drinking through cutaneous absorption.

These creatures also use their skin for breathing via gas exchange, enabling them to acquire sufficient oxygen in many different contexts.

Their skin acts as a primary defensive mechanism by protecting them from fungus and bacteria through mucus-like secretions.

Some species can use these secretions to deter predators by making it more challenging to maintain grip during attacks.

Some frog and salamander species exude toxic substances through their skin. Many frogs and salamanders use mimicking as a defensive mechanism by developing flashy skin colors similar to toxic species.

Most frogs and salamanders use camouflage or cryptic coloration to evade dangers.

Predatory Diet

Frogs and salamanders are carnivorous predators as adults, devouring their prey while they are still alive.

They consume invertebrates that are small enough to fit inside their mouths.

Both frogs and salamanders use bodily movements to force prey down their throats. Frogs and terrestrial salamanders have moist and sticky tongues for catching prey and have small teeth for grip but not chewing.

However, salamanders can use their teeth to tear their prey into smaller chunks by shaking their heads.

Thermoregulation 

Both frogs and salamanders are ectothermic, meaning they cannot regulate their body temperatures independently.

Instead, these cold-blooded animals resort to using the environment to stay warm or cool.

Their temperatures fluctuate based on external influences, which can be advantageous or disadvantageous depending on context.

Amphibian Lifestyle

Frogs and salamanders fall within the Amphibia animal group, which means they have many similarities concerning their life cycle and lifestyle into adulthood.

They generally start their journey as aquatic, gilled creatures and transition to life on land with age.

Bioindicators 

Both frogs and salamanders are known as ‘environmental indicators’ or bioindicators, which offer great advantages to scientific and medical communities worldwide.

Since they are vulnerable to environmental changes and pollution levels, their presence and health are observed to understand the dangers lurking throughout the environment.

Differences Between Frogs And Salamanders

Although frogs and salamanders are similar in many ways, numerous differences make each of these creatures unique. 

Eggs and Development

Frog eggs and salamander eggs are both jelly-like but differ in physical appearance. Frog eggs are generally laid in clumps, masses, or strings underwater or in moist inland areas.

Salamander eggs are laid in small packets in shallow waters, surrounded by two protective layers.

From this point, frogs will develop into tadpoles, froglets, and finally frogs, and their final habitat will generally be based on the species itself (CTNF).

Frogs can inhabit water bodies, trees, or sandy regions, and some frogs can survive fair distances from water bodies.

Salamander eggs develop into aquatic larvae and adult salamanders over time. The habitat will depend on the conditions.

Salamanders become semi-terrestrial in ideal conditions, but they may apply neoteny by remaining aquatic and gilled if conditions are not suitable on land. Most salamanders are associated with wet environments.

Physical Features

The primary differences between frogs and salamanders concern their body shape and physical traits. Identifying these features is the easiest way to discern whether a creature is a frog or a salamander. 

While frogs lose their tails during the froglet phase, salamanders retain their tails throughout their lives.

Small American Toad-min
Toad I found in the wild
Salamander I found in the wild

Salamanders can use autonomy as a defensive mechanism, where they detach their tails to escape dangers such as predatory attacks or even getting stuck in an odd location.

But, their tails usually regenerate in only a few weeks.

Frogs are four-legged and generally have streamlined bodies for hopping, climbing, and swimming.

But, they may also have unique feet, either webbed for swimming, padded for climbing, or shaped for digging depending on the habitat.

Their hind legs are generally stronger and longer than their front legs for jumping purposes.

Salamanders have slim bodies, short and evenly sized limbs, and a lizard-like body shape. Their long and slender body shapes allow them to walk and swim easily.

Salamanders can regenerate many body parts in addition to their tails, such as toes or even full limbs.

More About Frogs and Amphibians

Frogs and salamanders use similar survival tactics concerning hunting, eating, drinking, breathing, and evading predators overall.

However, they differ in their fundamental traits, needs, lifestyles, and special abilities.

Both frogs and salamanders play a crucial role in their respective habitats, as they help maintain balance within ecosystems worldwide.

Learn more about frog and amphibians on our blog: