How do Frogs Defend Themselves?

Frogs are far from the top of the food chain and have so many predators it may be hard to imagine how they can defend themselves.

However, frogs employ a wide variety of very smart ways to protect themselves in the wild. 

As a general rule, frogs defend themselves by puffing up their bodies, surprising their predators, playing dead, biting, screaming, urinating, using color, camouflage, and their well-built anatomy to jump, leap or swim away from their enemies.

Letโ€™s have a closer look at each of these defense mechanisms used by frogs to scare away predators such as fish, birds, humans, and even monkeys.

Ways Frogs Defend Themselves Against 100s of Predators [Frog Survival]

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Some Frogs Puff Up Their Bodies to Defend Themselves

Frogs have vocal sacks they use to attract mates in the Spring.

But if a predator is in sight, one way that frogs defend themselves is by puffing up their bodies with air to look much bigger than they truly are and intimidate predators. 

Frogs can fill their vocal sacks, and sometimes their entire bodies with air to look much bigger and much more imposing.

This can help frogs look more aggressive, intimidating, or too big for predators to eat. This can surprise their enemy and deter them from attacking.

Frogs Can Surprise Their Enemy For Self Defence

Another way frogs can surprise their enemy is by using color to startle them. Some frogs have hidden colored spots in the folds of their skin or on their bellies.

These spots actually look like eyes to predators. If it gets too close, a frog may suddenly raise to reveal the fake eyes on its belly and alarm a predator.

Unexpected Frog Predators

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Some frogs will jump or vigorously dance by moving their legs left and right to catch a predator off guard.

Sudden unexpected movement is sometimes a good way for frogs to startle a predator and scare it away.

Some Frogs Are Poisonous to Their Predators

Many frogs in South America are very colorful, but also very poisonous.

Using bright primary colors is a way for frogs to warn their enemies that they are dangerous and not to be consumed. 

Are ALL Frogs Poisonous?

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Other frogs and toads have poisonous glands on their bodies that ooze if the frog feels like it is in danger.

These frogs can cover themselves in a sticky toxic coating which can make the predator spit them out or die if they do wind up in their mouth.

Depending on the species, frog poison can burn, paralyze, cause respiratory issues, hallucinations, convulsions, or even death.

Poisonous frogs can be very dangerous to humans and pets, and itโ€™s important to keep your distance if you are unsure if the species is safe to handle.

Find out which frogs are poisonous on our blog

Frogs Camouflage to Hide From Predators

The most well-known way frogs employ deception is by using camouflage.

According to Oxford Languages, camouflage is defined as disguising to blend in with surroundings.

Frogs may have coloring or markings that mimic their direct environment in order to hide among vegetation, water, mud, leaves, and other elements naturally found in their surroundings.

Gray Tree Frogs are excellent at blending in with their environment.

They tend to look exactly like the bark of the trees where they live. 

Red-Eye Tree Frogs being some of the most famous frogs in the world, you may think it stands out like a sore thumb with its red eyes and green and yellow body.

But this frog can stick very closely to leaves, become pale green, and blend in to look like it is not there.

Learn more about how frogs camouflage on our blog

Frogs Use Bright Colors to Stand Out [Aposematism]

Aposematisim is defined by Oxford Languages as having aposematic coloration or markings to serve as a warning to repel predators.

According to Britannica, aposematism is a biological means by which a dangerous or noxious organism advertises its dangerous nature to a potential predator.

The predator, having recognized the dangerous organism as an unfavorable prey, is encouraged to avoid eating or attacking the prey.

Put even simpler, aposematism is pretty much the opposite of camouflage. 

When frogs use aposematism as a survival technique, they are generally trying to signal to other animals that they are toxic and dangerous. 

In order to do so, frogs typically use very bright colors such as yellow, orange, blue, red, and even black.

Frogs may use colors to defend themselves in a few different ways:

  • Flash Coloration: Frogs that have flash coloration usually keep these colors hidden unless under attack. The Red-Eyed Tree Frog, for instance, flashes its red eyes to confuse, distract and frighten possible predators. Some frogs surprise their enemies with the color in their mouths. Somewhat like the โ€œfake eyesโ€ technique, if an enemy gets too close, these frogs will suddenly show off the bright colors in their mouths. The goal is to catch the enemy off guard and deter them from attacking.
  • Protective Coloration: Protective coloration is also called cryptic coloration. Such colors act as camouflage, helping frogs blend with their surroundings. Such blending makes it hard for predators to spot the frogs. Learn more about this type of use of colours in the section on camouflage.
  • Warning Coloration: Warning coloration is also called aposematic coloration. Some frogs have brightly colored bodies indicating that they are highly poisonous. Many frogs from South America are extremely colorful with bright blue, red, or yellow, as a way for frogs to warn their enemies that they are not to be eaten.

This strategy is used to help the frogs stand out in their environment.

Since their bright colors are not  visible at night, these frogs are typically only active during the day (diurnal).

Find out what colors frogs can be in this article on our blog

Frogs May Mimic Their Surroundings

According to Oxford Languages, and from a biological standpoint, mimicry is defined as “the close external resemblance of an animal or plant (or part of one) to another animal, plant, or inanimate object.”

There are two types of mimicry that frogs may employ.

The first is Mullerian Mimicry, the second is Batesian Mimicry.

Mullerian Mimicry consists in mimicking another toxic species.

In this case, some toxic frog species may mimic another highly toxic frog species to try to dupe predators into thinking they are dangerous.

Both species are toxic in this type of mimicry thus increasing the warning signal. 

Batesian mimicry consists in some non-toxic frog species that may mimic highly toxic frog species to try to dupe predators into thinking they are dangerous.

By looking like a toxic species, the mimicker emits a warning signal to predators pretending that they are toxic.

However, if there are too many Bastian mimics, the signal becomes weak and less effective.

Frogs may also mimic their surroundings and environment.

This allows them to blend in and hide from predators in plain sight.

Megophrys Nasuta and Fringe Leaf Frogs mimic dead leaves to look like undesirable elements to most predators. Theloderma frogs look like bird poop.

Frogs May Scream or Squeak to Scare Predators

A tiny angry squeaking Frog ๐Ÿธ | Super Cute Animals - BBC

Some frogs scream when they are afraid, in danger, or if a predator gets too close.

A frog scream may sound funny (watch the video above) but it can be an effective way for them to surprise a predator and deter it from attacking.

For example, the Desert Rain Frog will puff up like a little balloon and scream to scare its enemies.

It is a tiny frog and its scream sounds more like a squeak from a dogโ€™s toy, but if they are still here today and using this technique to scare predators, it must mean it works!

Hear frog calls and screams on our blog

Frogs May Play Dead to Avoid Predators

A frog may put itself into stealth mode and play dead. It is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but reaming completely immobile for long periods is a way frogs defend themselves from predators. 

Do You Hear Crickets in Spring? May not be crickets...

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In the video above, I found a Spring Peeper that played dead when I approached it. Frogs may mix a few defense mechanisms when playing dead including laying on their back, slowing down their breathing, and camouflaging.

Predators look for movement when they are hungry and want to attack. If nothing is moving around them, they may move onto another spot (CTNF).

Find out which animals are predators to frogs on our blog

Frogs May Bite Their Enemy

Some frogs have a very strong bite, and some even have teeth. Biting is a rare defense mechanism frogs use to surprise, scare or harm their enemies.

If a frog has to resort to this technique, it means the enemy is very near and they are close to being eaten.

Frogs may bite if they feel threatened, or in danger, but rarely use this technique unless they are large frogs.

For example, Pacman Frogs have teeth and are commonly kept as pets and may bite if they think you finger is food. But most frogs do not bite to defend themselves, like toads that do not have teeth.

Learn more about frog teeth on our blog

Frogs May Urinate to Deter Predators

This may have happened to you. You picked up a frog or a toad, and it peed on you. It sure happened to me as a child, I know better now and you can learn how to avoid this problem here.

Why a Frog Peed on You

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Urinating is used as a defense mechanism by frogs to cover their scent or repel an enemy. Frog urine smells and tastes bad to most predators.

So if a bird catches a frog that urinates, the bird may drop the frog which can then quickly hop away to safety.

Here is what to do if a frog pees on you on our blog

Some Frogs Just Roll Away From Their Enemy

Pebble toad rollover - Nature's Greatest Dancers: Episode 2 Preview - BBC One

This is a very cool example of unique way frogs can defend themselves. The Pebble Toad cannot hop, so to escape from its enemies, it tucks its legs as close as possible to its body to turn into a little ball that can roll away from predators.

Rolling away is especially effective when the frog is at the top of a hill or mountain so it can use gravity and inertia to initiate and sustain its escape.

The frog tightens all its muscles to absorb the impact, and since it is so small and weighs so little, this escape technique does not hurt them (source).

Frogs Can Jump Away From Predators

Other things that help protect frogs from predators have to do with their anatomy. Many frog species have long legs that allow them to jump, leap or swim away from predators. 

Common Coquรญ are frogs native to Porto Rico that jump out of trees at dusk right when birds become inactive, and right before tarantulas start to feed, in order to eat and safely avoid predators.

Frogs Use Their Anatomy For Self-Defence

Often aquatic frogs will dive into the water to escape predators, especially if they are being chased by an enemy that does not swim as well as they do.

Some frogs like toads will bury themselves in the mud using their back legs to dig a hole in order to hide from predators. Some can secrete poison to defend themselves.

Some frogs are tiny and can easily hide in places predators would not think to look. Other frogs are huge and can somewhat bully their way out of being eaten thanks to their size and strength.

For example, the Goliath Frog can grow up to 32cm. (13in.) in length from and weigh up to 3.25kg (7.2 lb) putting it higher up on the food chain.

Frogs also have incredible vision with eyes that provide them a 360 view of what is around them, to help them avoid enemies before they get close. 

Questions Related to How Frogs Defend Themselves

Why do Frogs Puff Up? Frogs puff up to repel mates, or surprise predators by looking larger than expected and avoid getting eaten. By filling their vocal sacs with air, frogs can expand to look larger and deter unwanted mating, startle or scare predators away.

Why do Frogs Scream? Frogs scream when they feel like they are threatened or in danger to warn or scare predators. The usual cause of a shrill, cry, scream, squeak or piercing shriek is to alarm predators which may include skunks, dogs, birds, lizards, or monkeys.

Do Frogs Bite? Frogs may bite if they feel scared, threatened, or in danger. Some frogs have a very strong bite, and some even have sharp teeth. Biting is a defense mechanism frogs use to surprise, scare or harm their enemies, especially if they are close to being eaten.

Do Frogs Play Dead? Frogs play dead by slowing down their breathing and camouflaging as a defense mechanism to hide from predators or seem less appealing to them. Predators look for movement and if a frog looks dead or immobile, a predator has fewer chances of attacking.

Why Do Frogs Pee When You Pick Them Up? Frogs pee when picked up as a defense mechanism to repel an enemy. A frog will pee if it is afraid and wants to escape. They do not like to be picked up as they absorb practically everything through their skin and salts, oils, soil, and lotions from our hands can irritate them.

What Do Frogs Do When Scared? When frogs are scared they may jump or swim away, puff up their bodies, try to surprise their predators using color, play dead, bite, scream, urinate, camouflage, or roll away. Some frogs are poisonous and will secrete a toxic coating around their bodies to avoid being eaten.


Carlos Jared, Pedro Luiz Mailho-Fontana, Marta Maria Antoniazzi, Vanessa Aparecida Mendes, Katia Cristina Barbaro, Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues, Edmund D. Brodie, Venomous Frogs Use Heads as Weapons, Current Biology, Volume 25, Issue 16, 2015, Pages 2166-2170, ISSN 0960-9822,

Oxford Languages,

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of, 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.