Frogs use several mechanisms to survive changing seasons, predators, and their environmental conditions. Frogs were recorded to have been on the planet since the Dinosaur Age over 200 million years ago, and have mainly survived thanks to their incredible adaptability.
Frogs generally survive winter by hibernating, they survive predators by using a number of defense mechanisms including playing dead or hopping away, they survive the heat by estivating, burrowing, or remaining in cool places, and try to ensure their survival by laying 100s to 1000s of eggs.
All living things need a means of survival lest they become extinct. Frogs have a lot of disadvantages in the wild, from their porous skin to abundant predators, and some species needing constant access to clean water. However, frogs and toads have several survival tactics that have enabled them to thrive on the planet, even before humans existed! And here are some of them.
Frogs Survive Winter by Hibernating
The frigid cold of winter may lead you to wonder why and how frogs don’t freeze to death. Although they look fragile and soft, frogs are strong enough to survive harsh winter conditions. Where I live in Canada, there are tens of species of frogs that are capable of surviving temperatures as low as -40°C.
Frogs survive winter through hibernation. Aquatic frogs such as the American Bullfrog hibernate underwater. Terrestrial frogs such as the American Toad hibernate underground below the frost line. Tree Frogs hibernate under leaf litter and freeze up to 65% of their body.
Some frogs are better equipped to face the frigid cold than others. For example, toads cannot survive freezing temperatures below –1.5 to –5.2 °C or 29°F to 23°F (Swanson et al. 1996), but Tree Frogs can freeze up to 60% of their body during Winter.
Each type of frog will strive to find the perfect hibernation spot as winter approaches. Aquatic frogs naturally settle at the bottom of water bodies like ponds and float around close to the mud. During hibernation, Tree Frogs develop high concentrations of glucose in their vital organs to prevent freezing, even when ice crystals form on their skin. Toads need to burrow underground below the frost line to survive, otherwise the cold can kill them.
Frogs have both a behavioral and physiological adaptation that supports hibernation and would not survive winter without them. Before they hibernate, frogs need to reserve some nutrients to last them throughout the Winter period. Most frogs eat insects, slugs, spiders and worms during the Spring and Summer to create reserves.
Check out our complete guide on How Frogs Survive Winter by Hibernating
Frogs Survive Predators by Self-Defense
Predators are a threat to the survival of frogs. Luckily, there are some ways frogs defend and protect themselves from predators.
As a general rule, frogs defend themselves from predators by puffing up their bodies, playing dead, biting, screaming, urinating, using color, camouflage, and their well-built anatomy to jump, leap or swim away from their predators.
Frogs sometimes have different defense mechanisms depending on the species. For example, many bright primary-colored frogs are highly toxic and have very few predators. Other very small frogs may fill up their body with air, puffing up in the process to frighten predators and look too large to eat.
Some frogs scream if they feel threatened, or may urinate on their enemy to gross it out. Toads often do this when you pick them up because they are afraid and want to escape. The Spring Peeper in the video below played dead when I approached it while looking for them at night. A few minutes later it was looking at me hiding under leaves perfectly fine (CTNF).
Even though they have tiny teeth, some frogs may also try to bite their enemies. Frogs defend themselves in many different fascinating ways and it is in part thanks to their natural self-defense mechanisms that frogs are still around today.
Check out our complete guide on How Frogs Survive Predators by Self-Defence
Frogs Survive by Laying Thousands of Eggs
Frogs generally lay 2 to 30,000 eggs once or multiple times per mating season depending on the species. Frogs lay thousands of eggs to help ensure their survival since most of the eggs will be eaten by predators or will die after being exposed to natural elements.
To ensure their continuity, frogs generally lay thousands of eggs per mating season. Most animals see frogspawn as food and eat them before they transform into tadpoles. Frog eggs do not have any form of protection from the elements and are therefore susceptible to damage from natural elements including currents, the sun, and hail.
Mating generally takes place during Spring or the Wet Season depending on the climate the frogs are located. Frogs reproduce externally by amplexus in water. American Bullfrogs lay up to 25,000 eggs and African Bullfrogs up to 4,000 eggs for example. How many eggs frogs lay depends on the species and their environmental adaptations.
As the female lays eggs, the male simultaneously fertilizes them. Frog eggs need water to survive, so you will likely find clusters of frog eggs, or strings of toad eggs in calm streams, ponds, swamps, marshes, and bogs.
Check out more about how Frogs Survive by Laying Thousands of Eggs
Frogs Survive The Heat by Keeping Cool
Aquatic frogs survive hot weather, stay hydrated, and cool by remaining submerged underwater in the shade of vegetation. Toads burrow underground to escape the heat, and tree frogs remain around the shade, and humidity of trees. Some frog species estivate during Dry Seasons to survive the heat.
Hot weather generally means that frogs and toads are generally active. But the weather can be extremely arid in some climates where frogs spend the Dry Season burrowed underground estivating.
In North America, frogs generally enjoy basking in the sun in the early morning to warm up since frogs are cold-blooded. Frogs are ectothermic, meaning they rely on the environment around them to regulate their temperature. Once the sun gets strong, they find shade to avoid the risk of dehydration.
In certain climates where there is a Dry and Wet Season, frogs undergo estivation which is a period of dormancy similar to hibernation, but for hot locations. The frog finds a cool location, generally underground, and its body starts the estivation process with minimal metabolic activity. Their skin gets covered in a mucous-like cocoon to help reduce and prevent loss of water.
The frog becomes active again when temperatures are more favorable to them, generally during the Wet Season.
Learn about the Ideal Environment for Frogs in our complete guide.
How You Can Help Frogs Survive
As you probably already know, frogs are one of the most vulnerable animals on the planet with more and more species becoming endangered, critically endangered, or extinct on a regular basis due to human activity including deforestation, urbanization, and climate exchange.
You can have a positive impact and help frogs from the comfort of your own backyard. Here are some things you can do to help local frogs to ensure their survival:
- Create a frog-friendly pond in your yard
- Create a toad hibernaculum to help them survive winter
- Plant trees near a permanent water source to attract tree frogs
- Avoid using pesticides in your yard
Learn more about how you can contribute to the survival of your local frogs in this guide on our blog.
More About Frog Survival
This entire site is dedicated to frogs and toads. Learn more about how they survive in the complete guides on our blog below:
- Can Frogs Survive Saltwater?
- Frog Hibernation: How Frogs Survive Winter
- Do Frogs Sleep?
- Where Do Frogs Sleep?
- Can a Frog Survive a Broken Leg?
- What Are Frogs Predators?
- Do Frogs Lay Eggs?
Common Questions About Frog Survival
Can frogs survive a broken leg? Generally, frogs can survive a broken leg with treatment. A qualified veterinarian can help decide the best treatment for a frog’s broken leg which may include surgery, medication, amputation, or putting the frog down.
Why do frogs lay so many eggs? Frogs generally lay 2 to 30,000 eggs once or multiple times per mating season depending on the species to ensure their survival. Frogs lay thousands of eggs to help ensure their survival since most of the eggs will be eaten by predators or will die after being exposed to natural elements.
How do frogs survive the heat? Aquatic frogs survive hot weather, stay hydrated, and cool by remaining submerged underwater in the shade of vegetation. Toads burrow underground to escape the heat, and tree frogs remain around the shade, and humidity of trees. Some frog species estivate during Dry Seasons to survive the heat.
How do frogs survive predators? As a general rule, frogs defend themselves from predators by puffing up their bodies, playing dead, biting, screaming, urinating, using color, camouflage, and their well-built anatomy to jump, leap or swim away from their enemies.
How do frogs survive winter? Frogs survive winter through hibernation. Aquatic frogs such as the American Bullfrog hibernate underwater. Terrestrial frogs such as the American toads hibernate underground below the frost line. Tree Frogs hibernate under leaf litter and freeze up to 65% of their body.
Can frogs survive a fall? Frogs can cope with falls better than many other animals due to their weight. Small animals accelerate more slowly during the fall, meaning that the speed of the fall is less and the impact on the ground is lessened as well. However, they may or may not survive in case of injury.
Swanson, D.L., B.D. Graves, and K.L. Koster. 1996. Freezing tolerance/intolerance and cryoprotection synthesis in terrestrially overwintering anurans in the Great Plains, USA. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 166:110–119