The Ultimate Frog Guide

I love frogs and they have been part of my life since I found one for the first time in my backyard as a child. I am excited to share everything I know about frogs with you here in this ultimate guide to everything there is to know about frogs.

Click on any of the links below to be brought to the relevant section within this article.

Watch our mini frog documentary to learn almost everything there is to know about frogs! 🙂

Frog Classification: Anura

All frogs and toads are classified in the Anura Order, one of the three Orders that categorize amphibious species. General Anura characteristics include a squat, tailless adult body with long hind limbs, large eyes, and an external tympanum.

American Toad Back-min
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
Green Frog - Frog Lifespan-min
Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)

Frogs are slightly similar to other amphibians like salamanders since they are cold-blooded, are born in water, and can live on land as adults. However, what differs frogs from other amphibians, and reptiles, is the fact that they lose their tail in adulthood, thus the name “Anura,” which means “tailless” in Greek.

Anura” is one of the three Orders under the Amphibia Class containing over 7,400 frog species. This number increases every month as new discoveries under this order are made.

There are approximately 300 frog species living throughout the USA, and the most common belonging to the Hylidae and Ranidae families.

Examples of frog species include:

A group of frogs is generally referred to as an army or colony, as these terms are the most universal across various cultures and geographical locations. However, there are various additional terms for a group of frogs as well, including a band, chorus, cohort, bundle, troop, bevy, among others. 

Learn all about Frog Classification on our blog

Frog Evolution

According to  Pyron, R. Alexander (2011), early Anuran species originated 290 to 305 million years ago, and the split between Anura and Caudata was estimated as taking place 292 million years ago.

Although the dinosaurs, along with 75% of life on earth, did not survie the astroid that hit the planet an estimated 200 million years ago, 88% of frogs thrived after the dinosaurs went extinct.

Some reasons for this include the facts that frogs are nocturnal, live in protected areas (under ground, in trees) and fed on abundant insects. Frogs survived and had habits that helped them adapt very well to the extremely harsh condition the world was in.

Frog Anatomy

A frog’s anatomy goes through profound transformations via metamorphosis. Therefore, what a frog looks like, as well as their weight and size, profoundly changes depending the frogs age or life cycle stage.

Frogs generally begin to develop their bones and lungs in the tadpole stage of their development. Also, most frog species do not have opposable thumbs.

Learn all about Frog Anatomy on our blog

Frog Feet & Legs

Frogs do not have feet or legs at the egg or early tadpole stages. Frog feet generally develop after 6 weeks depending on the species and climate. Once frogs have both their hind and front legs, they have often reached the froglet stage where they can begin to live on land, outside the water.

At the adult stage, frogs have four legs and feet with different endings depending on the species. Some frogs have webbed feet for swimming or gliding (often aquatic frogs), while others have padded toes for climbing (often tree frogs), or spaded toes for digging (often toads).

Learn all about Frog Feet on our blog

Frog Skin

Frog skin is thin and delicate, even for toads. A unique traite of amphibians is that they breathe and drink through their skin, and frogs are no exception. They do not have hair to protect them like many mammals, and their delicate skin makes them more vulnerable to pollution and changes in their environment.

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Some frog species, and all toad species can secrete poison from their skin.

However, only two frog species, and no toads species are venomous since they do not have teeth or stingers to inject their poison.

Most frogs in North America are not poisonous to humans and those that are only cause sinus irritations. The world’s most poisonous and potentially fatal frogs are located in South America.

However, frogs can carry salmonella, and toads commonly found in backyards can be fatal to pets.

Frog tadpoles can generally regrow lost limbs, however frogs lose this ability at the adult stage. African Clawed Frogs are an exception as this species is somewhat able to regenerate lost limbs in such a way that it resembles a claw or a spike of cartilage.

Toad-min
Land-Dwelling Toad
Aquatic Frog

Although toads seem to have rougher skin, their skin is just as delicate as aquatic or arboreal frogs. Toads have glands (warts) on their skin to protect them and blend in with their environment (CTNF).

Because of the fact that frog skin is so delicate, it is a misconception to believe it is completely safe to handle frogs without gloves.

It is best for both the human and the frog to avoid handling frogs whenever possible, or to wear gloves and carry them correctly if it is necessary to pick them up.

Learn all about Frog Skin on our blog

Frog Respiration

Frogs can breathe using four respiratory methods including through their skin, lungs, nostrils, or mouth lining. The type of respiration used varies depending on where the frog is located and their preferred method of respiration.

Before metamorphosis into an adult frog, tadpoles breathe through their gills. However, by the time they reach the froglet stage, tadpoles generally have lungs and are losing their gills. At all stages of their life cycle, frogs can breathe underwater through their skin but are still at risk of drowning if they ingest water into their lungs.

Learn all about Frog Respiration on our blog

Frog Digestion

Frogs generally spot their prey, lick it up with their long sticky tongue, and then swallow it whole and alive. Frogs use their eyes to push prey down into their stomach where it generally dies. The prey is then fully digested and excreted. 

Frogs eat live prey, which travels to the stomach via the esophagus and dies by drowning in stomach acid or suffocating. The food then follows the small intestine, where it is broken down and absorbed, after which it enters the large intestine and is excreted through the external cloaca.

Learn all about Frog Digestion on our blog

Frog Sight

Frog eyes bulge out to sit above water and have horizontal or vertical pupils that can see in color, and provide frogs almost 360° day and night vision. Frogs eyes also have three eyelids and use their eyes to help them swallow their food.

Representation of a frog with no bulging eyes

Frogs have almost a 360° field of vision allowing them to see upwards and backwards. Frogs can therefore sit in water with a detailed view of what is going on above, below, and around them to spot food or predators.

Frogs also have three eyelids: one upper, one lower and a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane. The upper eyelid is used for blinking to keep eyes moist, the bottom eyelid does not move, and the nictitating membrane is used for swimming, camouflage, hibernation and sleeping.

Learn all about Frog Sight on our blog

Frog Hearing

Frogs do not have outer ears and generally have a middle and inner ear surrounded by tympanic cartilage, as well as tympanic membranes behind their eyes. Some frog species lack middle ears and tympanums, and they instead use their skin, lungs, or mouths to sense external sound vibrations. 

Tympanic Membrane of an American Bullfrog

Generally, frogs can hear thanks to their tympanic membrane that is situated on their heads behind their eyes. Frogs also pick up vibrations through their skin allowing them to interpret their environment. Some frogs can also hear with their lungs or mouth lining.

Learn all about Frog Hearing on our blog

Frog Locomotion

Frogs generally move by jumping, leaping, hopping, swimming, climbing, crawling, or digging. Frogs are saltatory animals that have longer hind legs than can be twice as long as their forelegs. Having fused vertebrae (backbones) allows frogs to have bodies made for jumping high and far.

Aquatic Green Frog Swimming
Spring-Peeper-min
Tree Frog (Spring Peeper) Climbing

How frogs move, and how quickly, generally depends on the species and circumstances. Some of the main methods of locomotion depend on the frogs environment and habits.

Aquatic frogs have long legs, tend to have webbed feet, and therefore are are excellent swimmers and jumpers.

Toads have shorter legs compared to aquatic frogs and tend to hop (rather than jump) and are made for digging.

Tree frogs have padded toes and generally have small, slim bodies allowing them to climb.

Learn all about Frog Locomotion on our blog

Frog Reproduction

As a general rule, frogs reproduce by amplexus through external fertilization. The female frog releases her eggs into the water and the male frog simultaneously releases sperm cells which fertilize the eggs.

Most frogs reproduce in early Spring in the Northern Hemisphere which can take place as early as February or as late as May depending on the location and climate. In the Southern Hemisphere, frogs typically reproduce at any time of year in tropical locations, or primarily during the Wet, Monsoon, or Rainy seasons.

Toads in Amplexus
Frog Lifecycle-min
Frogs Reproducing

Learn all about Frog Reproduction on our blog

To cover frog reproduction, we must consider the frog life cycle, their eggs, tadpoles, and how adults care for their young (or not).

Frog Life Cycle

The frog life cycle consists of 4 main stages: 1. Egg, 2. Tadpole, 3. Froglet, 4. Adult Frog. The evolution through these stages is called metamorphosis and complete transformation can take up to 28 weeks depending on species and climate.

Many of the most popular videos about the frog life cycle on YouTube are about exceptions, not how most frogs transform.

These exceptions to the general rule often confuse first-time learners, so let’s have a look at the general rule and we will see exceptions to the frog life cycle in the parental care section below (CTNF).

Learn all about the Frog Life Cycle on our blog

Frog Eggs / Frogspawn

Frog eggs are embryos laid by a female frogs simultaneously fertilized by a male frog during reproduction. The resulting zygote goes through cell division and embryonic development to later transform into a tadpole.

Most frog species lay their eggs in freshwater and avoid saltwater. Frogs typically lay eggs in clusters, whereas toads lay their eggs in strings. Many frog species lay hundreds to thousands of eggs to increase the chances of survival of their offspring.

Lifecycle Frog Egg-min

While being laid, frog eggs absorb water around them to form a jelly. This allows the eggs to cluster together and grow in size. This jelly enclosure allows eggs to stick to vegetation that anchors them down to avoid floating away.

Learn all about Frog Eggs and Toad Eggs on our blog

Frog Tadpoles

Tadpoles are the larval stage of frogs and have two or three main stages of development. How many stages are considered depends on the scholar, and how long each stage lasts varies depending on the species and climate.

In order to survive, tadpoles need clean freshwater, sufficient aquatic vegetation for food, and shelter to protect themselves from surrounding dangers. The quality of these environmental factors have a drastic impact on the tadpole’s chances of survival, whether in the wild or in captivity. 

Tadpole With No Feet
Tadpole With Hind Legs
Tadpoles With All Four Feet

Unknowingly, many people feed captive tadpoles the wrong foods, leading to higher death rates, lower survival, development rates. Lack of space and inadequate food can also lead to higher rates of cannibalism among tadpoles.

Tadpoles are herbivores in the initial stages of development, however become omnivores in later stages of development, and adult frogs are obligate carnivores.

Young captive tadpoles should be fed a varied diet of calcium and vitamin rich leafy greens including broccoli, spinach, chard, and rapini.

Learn all about Tadpoles on our blog

Frog Parental Care

The majority of frog species lay their eggs and do not remain with their young or return to tend to them. Frogs are solitary creatures that generally only come together once or a limited number of times per year only to reproduce and lay eggs. Contrary to popular belief, frogs probably do not fall in love.

However, not all frogs lay eggs. Some frogs, notably those that have had to adapt to harsh environmental conditions, care for their young differently compared to the norm.

These frogs may remain with their tadpoles and protect them from predators, care for them, or even ingest their eggs and regurgitate them once they are froglets.

Frog Habits

Frogs are generally happy when they have everything they need to survive including food, clean freshwater, shelter, and few predators around them. This section will cover general frog habits from eating, sleeping, calls, and self-defence against predators.

What Frogs Eat

As a general rule, wild and pet adult frogs feed on insects including worms, ants, flies, grubs, and larvae. Larger adult frogs also feed on larger prey including small birds, small bats, small snakes, and other frogs. Frogs are obligate carnivores at the adult stage of their development.

Frogs eat by spotting their prey, licking it up with their long sticky tongue, and then swallowing it whole and alive. Frogs use their eyes to push prey down into their stomach where it generally dies. The prey is then fully digested and excreted. 

Most healthy adult frogs can survive for 3 to 4 weeks without food, while adult frogs with average health may only survive 1 to 2 weeks. Adult frogs can survive for months without food during hibernation. However, juvenile frogs can only survive without food for around 1 to 3 days. 

However, while preparing this content, I realized people are searching for dangerous things to feed frogs. Frogs cannot eat processed foods such as cheese, ice cream, chocolate, lunch meat, dairy, hot dogs, or other human food (people were searching these things). Adult frogs are obligate carnivores that require eating live food that is appropriately sized for their bodies (CTNF).

The prey should also be adapted to the size of the frog, or the frog could choke, vomit, experience digestive issues, or die.

How Big Size Worms to Feed Frogs-min

Learn all about What Frogs Eat on our blog

Frog Sleep

Frogs generally sleep based on intermediate period of Non-REM, Primary and Cataplectic Sleep. Frogs do not sleep like humans other mammals, yet few scientific studies have been carried out on the topic of frog sleep, and many existing studies are based on a mammal-centric definition of sleep.

Frog Sleep Nictitating Membrane-min
Frog Nictitating Membrane Covering Eyes

Behaviourally, frogs sleep by doing the following:

  • Resting immobile for long periods of time
  • Tucking their limbs under their body
  • Keeping their chin and stomach very close to the ground
  • Covering their eyes with their nictitating membrane

Generally, aquatic frogs rest in water, arboreal frogs rest in trees, and terrestrial frogs sleep underground, though this may depend on the species, location and time of year including hibernation and estivation periods.

Learn all about Frog Sleep on our blog

Frog Calls & Sounds

As a general rule, the sound a frog makes depends on the species, their intent (mating, territorial defense), and the language that the human interpreting the sound speaks. English speakers think frogs make a “Ribit Ribit” sound whereas French speakers hear “Croac Croac.”

Green Frog Sound
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Spring Peeper Sound

Frogs may also scream to startle or scare predators. Frogs may also release distress, warning, mating, territorial and rain calls that could sound like screaming. Screaming generally is one of the many defence mechanisms a frog may use to protect itself.

Learn all about Frog Calls & Sounds on our blog

Frog Defence

Frogs typically defend themselves from potential threats and predators either by puffing up their bodies, surprising their predators with color, playing dead, biting, screaming, urinating, using camouflage, or their well-built anatomy to jump, leap or swim away from danger.

Frogs are known to feel pain and can break limbs that do not grow back if they fall or are injured. Frog eggs and tadpoles have little means of self-defence and are more vulnerable to predators.

Learn all about How Frogs Defend Themselves on our blog

Frog Hibernation / Estivation

Frogs and toads survive Winter by hibernating. Generally, both species bulk up during the year and in the Fall, toads burrow underground, and aquatic frogs head below freezing water. During Winter, their metabolism and heart rate slow down while they live off stored body reserves until the Spring.

Although hibernation is common for frogs during cold Winters in North America and parts of Europe, not all frogs hibernate if they live in consistently warm environments like those in Asia, South America, Africa or Australia. Instead, such frogs may estivate in response to hot or arid conditions.

Frogs generally come out of hibernation in the Spring, but precise timing depends on the type of frog. Tree Frogs generally come out of hibernation in early Spring after the frost melts, aquatic frogs once ponds are no longer frozen, and toads come out once the soil is warm enough.

Learn all about Frog Hibernation on our blog

Frog Gender

Many frog species are known to include intersex individuals that have changed gender or reversed their sex from male to female, or female to male. Generally, the number of individuals having experienced sex reversal represents 5 to 15% of the observed frog population.

Although there are 500 animal species that are recognized to display homosexual behavior in nature, only two types of frogs among over 7,400 frog species are on the list. Frogs reproduce sexually by amplexus through external fertilization, meaning a male and female are required for reproduction.

Learn all about Frog Gender and Sexual Preferences on our blog

Toads vs Frogs

All toads are frogs, yet frogs and toads are not the same species. Both frogs and toads are amphibians of the order of Anura.

But toads live on land, aquatic frogs live in water, tree frogs live in or around trees, toads crawl and hop, frogs swim and jump, and all toads are poisonous, contrary to frogs.

Toads generally avoid water unless it is mating season and do not swim or jump as well as aquatic frogs.Toads and frogs generally avoid each-other in the wild.

Learn all about Differences Between Toads & Frogs on our blog

Frog Predators

Frog have thousands of predators that live above, below, and in the water with them. These include birds like herons, crows, and ducks; reptiles such as lizards, snakes, and alligators; big game fish including bass and muskellunge; small mammals from skunks and foxes, to raccoons, otters, and monkeys.

Humans are also frog predators that are hunted consumed in numerous places across the globe.

Environmental and human-related factors also reduce frog populations due to roads, motor vehicles, pollution, deforestation, and urbanization.

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Frog Distribution

Frogs are located all over the world on every continent except the Arctic and Antartica. Each link below includes different types of frogs you can find depending on the location:

Learn all about Types of Frogs on our blog

Frog Habitat

As a general rule, the best habitat for frogs has fresh water, access to plenty of food, and a safe place to reproduce (CTNF).

Frogs may prefer to live in, on, or near freshwater, land, or trees depending on the species. Some species have also adapted to saltwater, as well as dry and arid conditions.

Learn all about Where Frogs Live on our blog

Invasive Frog Species

Invasive frog species consist of Anuran species that were displaced from one location and introduced to a new environment. They may have been moved to new locations for economic, ecological, or environmental reasons which commonly backfire leading to ecological and economic problems.

The main reason frogs are taken from their natural habitat and placed in new environments is due to human activity including agriculture, farming, the pet trade, and transportation on cargo-ships.

Invasive species generally cause ecological harm in a new environment where they are non native, notably by feeding on native wildlife.

Some invasive frog species include the American Bullfrog in Western USA and Canada, Cane Toads in Florida, the Caribbean and Pacific islands, Cuban Tree Frogs in Hawaii, and African Clawed Frogs in California.

Learn all about Invasive Frog Species on our blog

Frog Lifespan

Generally, frogs live 3 to 18 years in the wild and on average 10 to 20 years in captivity. Toads have been recorded to have lived up to 40 years in captivity. Frog longevity is influenced by the presence of food and predators, their size, gender, and environment.

Generally, toads live 1 to 10 years in the wild and can live on average 15 to 40 years in captivity. Toad lifespan is influenced by the presence of food and predators, their size, gender, and environment.

You can tell the age of a frog based on their life cycle stage for baby frogs, and the rings in their bones for adults. Frogs remain eggs for 3 to 25 days, frogs are generally tadpoles for 14 to 16 weeks, froglets are baby frogs for 6 to 9 weeks, and become reproducing adults after 2 to 4 years.

Learn all about Frog Longevity on our blog

Human Interaction With Frogs

Let’s have a look at how humans interact with frogs from conservation to culinary uses, hunting, scientific research, and keeping frogs as pets.

Frog Conservation

Frog Conservation How to Help Frogs-min
A frog I found in a marsh

Frogs play a vital role in ecosystems worldwide, as they form an integral part of the food chain, prevent disease transmission by feeding on potential carriers, and keep waterways clean. They also act as bioindicators for researchers and offer potential advancements in the medical industry. 

As a general rule, you can help with frog conservation by having a frog-friendly backyard, avoiding the use of chemicals, reporting disease cases, and supporting the health of natural environments in your community. The largest threats to frogs include urbanization, disease, pollution, and roads. 

One of the easiest and best ways to help with frog conservation is by creating a frog sanctuary in your own backyard and attracting them. A few ways to do this consist in installing a frog-friendly pond, making your garden the perfect place for toads to thrive, and adding a toad hibernaculum for the Winter.

A pond we installed attracted 3 frogs

Learn all about Frog Conservation on our blog

Endangered Frogs

Frogs are endangered due to human activity including deforestation, urbanization, roads separating migration areas, agriculture, surface drainage systems, pollution, diseases, invasive species, human intervention, and climate change.

For example, the Western Chorus Frog thrived along the Saint Laurence river in Quebec, Canada. But due to urbanization and agricultural activity along this area, this frog is now listed as vulnerable to extinction in Quebec, and is an endangered species in many other parts of Canada. 

Learn all about Endangered Frogs on our blog

Frog-Based Scientific Research

Frogs are important bioindicators as to overall ecosystem health as well as key players in human medical advancements since frog’s skin secretions carry potential cures for illnesses. Around 10% of Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine resulted from frog research. Russian researchers also found more than 76 antimicrobial peptides on frog skin that could prevent pathogenic and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

Research into frogs has found potential cures for peptic ulcers, which are endured by 25 million people in the United States alone. Unfortunately, the species vanished only a few years later. When frogs disappear, so do the potential cures and innovative treatments that could arise from their unique traits. 

Finding Frogs in The Wild

Frogs are commonly found in urban areas, backyards, gardens, and in the wild. Aquatic frogs can be found in permanent sources of freshwater such as ponds, marshes and bogs.

Toads can be found on land in humid areas like under rocks, vegetation or in soil. Toads often fall into window wells in urban areas. Tree frogs can be found near ponds in trees.

Frog Hunting

In the United States, frogs are allowed to be gigged, hunted, or “frogged” in many States. Generally, a license is required, bag and possession limits apply, as well as weapon and species restrictions. It is the hunter’s responsibility to understand regulations specific to the land on which they hunt (CTNF).

In some states frogs cannot be used as live fishing bait, however in many states tadpoles cannot be used as fishing bait. With regards to hunting, frog bag limits or how many frogs may be hunted varies per state and is generally set between 24 hour periods from 12 midnight to 12 midnight. For example, in Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma, the daily bag limit is 15 Bullfrogs.

Learn all about Frog Hunting on our blog

Culinary Uses of Frogs

Around 20 frog species are suitable for consumption. Some of the most popular edible frog species include the American Bullfrog, Leopard Frogs, Javan Frogs, Edible Frogs, and Anatolian Frogs. However, some of these species are declining in population due to hunting and overconsumption. 

Frog legs are often the only part used for culinary purposes and frog legs can often be purchased in gourmet markets, seafood stores, certain grocery stores, specialized restaurants, and online meat stores.

Finding a reputable local hunter is also an option, provided that they use humane practices and are transparent about the frog species. 

Frog legs generally have the texture of chicken and taste like white fish. Frog legs generally take on the flavour of the spices and sauces that are used in their preparation and tend to taste more like chicken when grilled or boiled, but more like fish when deep fried, or sautéed.

Although toads are safely consumed in some parts of the world including parts of Asia and Australia, toads have toxic secretions and, therefore, toads not safe to eat. Toads skin contains toxic secretions and their ingestion can cause serious and sometimes fatal reactions.

Frogs as Pets

Frogs are popular pets. When well cared for, pet frogs can live a fairly long time, anywhere from 5 to 40 years depending on the species.

However, frogs may not make good pets for some people due to ongoing costs, live feeding requirements, demanding tank cleaning and habitat requirements, risks to children and other pets, “frog-sitting” issues, as well as fragile frog health. Also, frogs do not like human contact.

I personally prefer having wild “pet” frogs.

Learn more about Keeping Frogs as Pets on our blog

Frogs on Property

Frogs can enter houses through small openings such as cracks, vents, ripped screens, cracked sewer lines, and windows or doors with openings. Frogs may try to enter the home searching for food and adequate shelter, yet frogs generally appear in common household spaces such as window wells by accident. 

If a frog is hopping loose in your house, it will most likely be in a warm, damp place like the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or basement. You can attract the frog to a specific location in your home by putting damp paper towels down on the floor and checking them periodically (CTNF).

Frogs may also lay eggs in pools which requires relocating them safely. The best way to avoid frogs entering the home, pool, or property is by preventing the problem by keeping frogs off your property. As a last resort, natural frog repellants may also be a good solution, especially if you have issues with them being loud at night.

Learn more about Keeping Frogs off Your Property on our blog

Cultural Beliefs

Frogs typically symbolize prosperity, good luck, purity, fertility, transformation, and potential. Frogs may also symbolize renewal, growth, rain, natural cycles, healing or plague depending on context, use, religion, and culture.  

Frogs are believed to be lucky creatures associated with many positive cultural practices, superstitions, folklore, fables, and mythology over the years. Frogs are said to attract good fortune, prosperity, fertility, healing, and growth based on their natural traits, abilities, and behaviours. 

However, frogs may be considered bad due to invasive species, various poison levels, skin secretions, toxicity towards pets, and their entering homes and private property. However, the cases where frogs are a problem predominantly concern improper approaches or misinterpretations from humans.

Frogs have also been a highly covered topic in internet culture from frog aesthetic, to memes, frog hybrids, viral art, songs, cartoons, tattoos, and of course, Pepe The Frog.

Learn all about Frog Cultural Representations on our blog

Frog Facts

Frog facts are fun bits of information to know about this incredible animal species, and we have a bunch of very cool frog facts on our blog. Learn more in the articles below.

Sources

Pyron, R. Alexander (2011, “Divergence time estimation using fossils as terminal taxa and the origins of Lissamphibia”Systematic Biology. 466–481. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syr047. PMID 21540408).