Why Do Frogs Have Webbed Feet?

Different species of frogs tend to differ in terms of certain aspects depending on their environment and their natural habitat. But one of the physical traits that you may notice that is quite common among different frogs is that they have webbed feet.

Aquatic frogs generally have webbed feet for swimming, while some tree frogs have webbed feet to fly from tree to tree, and some toads that have webbed feet that help them dig. However, not all frog species have webbed feet.

Even though frogs and toads belong to the same order, there are over 7,500 species of frogs that all have their own physical traits and characteristics. Different frog species have evolved to have specific physical traits to help them thrive in their environment. The same explanation also applies to frogs that do not have webbed feet.

The environment in which these frogs live demanded that they evolve to have webbed feet or other traits so that they can survive and thrive as a species. Here are some explanations as to why frogs have webbed feet depending on the type of frog.

1. Aquatic Frogs Have Webbed Feet For Swimming

Aquatic frogs have webbed feet to propel them in water, increase efficiency in swilling, while reducing energy consumption. Having webbed feet allows aquatic frogs to quickly escape predators in water.

As you know, frogs are amphibians that can dwell on both land and water. However, there are frog species that tend to spend more time in the water than on land. These are what we call aquatic frogs.

Aquatic frog species need to have webbed feet because of how they need to swim well in water. Having webbed feet allows them to propel themselves faster while swimming so that they can swim quickly, more efficiently, while using less energy. 

You may have noticed this divers that use flippers for the same reasons: to swim faster, more efficiently, while using less energy. In a way, you can think of these webbed feet as an aquatic frog’s version of the flippers that we use whenever we are diving.

Aquatic frogs can use their webbed feet and powerful lets to escape predators or to hunt for food. Without these webbed feet, such frogs would find it more difficult to survive in the water.

2. Some Tree Frogs Have Webbed Feet to Fly

Some tree frog species that are capable of flight thanks to the webbing in their feet. These frogs do not exactly fly, but they are capable of gliding in the air to efficiently hop from one tree to the next while avoiding predators on the ground.

Because there are some tree frog species that have evolved to glide from one tree to the next, they have webbed feet that allow them to improve the way they traverse the air. In a way, these webbed feet act as gliders or wings that allow the frog to become more aerodynamic.

What you will also notice is that these flying tree frogs tend to have webbed feet that are larger than their aquatic counterparts. The reason is that having larger webbed feet allows them to glide better while in the air. 

A good example of a tree frog that has webbed feet that it uses to fly is the Wallace’s Flying Frog, which is also given the name “Parachute Frog” due to how it uses its webbed feet as parachutes when gliding through the air.

3. Some Toads Have Webbed Feet to Help Them Dig

Toads live on land and because they are land-dwelling, some need webbed feet that are capable of helping them dig holes in the ground so they can burrow.

So, in a way, think of toad’s webbed feet as natural shovels. Different species of toads tend to burrow in the ground for various reasons depending on the time of year, but the most common of which is to find shelter and humidity. Most toads tend to stay hidden whenever they are not hunting so that they can keep themselves safe from their natural predators. 

Of course, burrowing underground also allows these toads to stay clear from the sun so that they do not end up getting dehydrated. As land-dwelling frogs, toads love to stay hidden underground so that they can still stay moisturized. There is also the fact that toads use these burrows to stay hidden during winter as they hibernate.

Do All Frogs Have Webbed Feet?

While it might be common for different frog species to have webbed feet, this is not a universal trait among all frogs. Not all frogs have webbed feet because many frog species do not need webbed feet to survive in their environment.

If you have tried walking on the ground while wearing flippers on your feet, you will notice how doing so will be much more difficult. The same can be said for land-dwelling and arboreal frog species. 

There are still some land and tree-dwelling frogs that do have webbed feet for any of the reasons stated previously. However, in a lot of cases, terrestrial and arboreal frogs do not need webbed feet because of how they can hamper their movement. For example, it would be extremely difficult for an American Green Tree Frog to climb a tree with webbed feet.

So, in a way, frogs evolve to have webbed feet out of necessity. As such, frog species that do not have webbed feet do not have them precisely because they do not need webbed feet to survive.

More About Frog Feet

Find out more about the frog life cycle on our blog in the following articles:

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.