Ask most people what a baby frog is called, and you will likely hear the answer tadpole or pollywog in response. We learn this at an early age, but what you might not know, is how a tadpole turns into a frog. How many stages are involved or if all frogs develop the same way. In fact, there is a lot to learn about these fascinating creatures and how they develop from babies into adults.
Here are some of the most fascinating baby frog facts, as well as some pictures and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
7 Fascinating Baby Frog Facts
There Are Many Names For Baby Frogs
Frogs are one of the few animals that have different names for their babies, depending on their stage of maturity. The first stage of life for a frog is in the form of ‘frogspawn‘. This looks like a jelly like substance, but is actually all the baby frog eggs clumped together or ‘clutched’ in a breeding pool.
The most commonly used term for a baby frog, and the one that most people know is ‘tadpole‘. Tadpoles are the first stage, or larval stage in the life cycle of an amphibian once it hatches from the frogspawn egg. Both toads and frogs are tadpoles in their larval stage.
At this stage, they will remain in the breeding pool but swim freely. There are some tadpoles that are terrestrial, but the vast majority are fully aquatic. Both frogs and toads start out as tadpoles. In this stage they are also sometimes knows as ‘pollywogs‘. Both pollywog and tadpole mean the same thing.
While in the tadpole stage of life, the frog will start to go through stages of metamorphosis and grow limbs. They also develop the features and characteristics of a frog. The rear limbs are the first to emerge, and when a baby frog reaches this stage, they are known as a ‘froglet‘.
Tadpoles Look Very Different From Frogs
Baby frogs in their larval stage are very different creatures than when they have completed their metamorphosis. As well as eyes and a tiny mouth, tadpoles have fish like features such as gills and a fin-like tail, that adult amphibians do not have.
As they go through their metamorphosis, they develop limbs and lungs for breathing fresh air, and their diet changes dramatically. They also develop a hard skeleton which they do not have in the larvae stage.
A Baby Frogs Diet Changes As They Grow
It’s common for animals to adapt their diet as they grow from infants into juveniles. The most obvious is with mammals that live off their mothers milk before moving onto solid food. With baby frogs it is slightly different. As tadpoles, a baby frog lives only on the algae that grows in their breeding pools. They may also start to eat small insects, like flies that land on the water in later larval stages. They have also been known to resort to cannibalism where food is very scarce.
As they develop into froglets and leave their breeding pools, they start to move onto a varied diet. Diet does vary across the different species, as you would expect given that frogs exist on every continent except Antarctica. But in general, their diet includes insects such as flies, moths, grasshoppers and bugs. They will snatch worms or spiders off the ground and snails or slugs off plants. Their weapon for catching their food is the very stretchy tongue and sticky saliva they develop as froglets.
Not All Baby Frogs Start Out As Free Swimming Tadpoles
While most baby frogs start out as frogspawn in breeding pools and develop into tadpoles, not all of them do. While most frogs hatch as tadpoles in aquatic pools, there are some that are laid on land and emerge in more mature forms.
Some baby frogs hatch from their eggs as fully formed froglets, bypassing the tadpole stage. Some are carried through the larval stages until they become froglets. Examples of this include the Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris), the Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) and the now extinct Gastric Brooding Frogs (Rheobatrachus).
The Greenhouse Frog eggs are laid in terrestrial locations rather than submerged. They hatch directly into froglets roughly two weeks after they are laid. Tiny froglets emerge from the eggs with a small tail nub.
With Darwin’s Frogs, males swallow the frogspawn and store the tadpoles through their development in their vocal sac. They are leave their father internal comforts once they have developed into froglets.
With the extinct Gastric Brooding Frogs that once lived in Australia, mothers would swallow their eggs and store them in her stomach. Her stomach would adapt during this time to prevent digesting her offspring. After around 8 weeks developing in her stomach they would hop out as fully formed froglets.
Most Tadpoles Are Abandoned After Egg Laying
Most frogs, are not paternal at all. Once a pregnant frog has laid her eggs in a breeding pool, that is the last they will interact with their offspring. In fact, only around 10% of all frog species are paternal, and of that, close to two thirds of the paternal parents are male.
Examples of paternal frog species include the Marsupial Frogs such as the Flying Tree Frog (Agalychnis spurrelli), the Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti) and the Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris).
The Flying Tree Frog is known as a Marsupial Frog, because like a marsupial (kangaroo, wallaby), they carry their young (eggs) in a pouch. When the eggs hatch into tadpoles, the mother will release them into water by opening the pouch with her toes.
Male Barking Frogs guard the females eggs once laid and fertilized. The eggs are deposited on land rather than in water, and the male will spray them with urine to keep them moist. They stand guard for around four to five weeks until the eggs hatch into fully formed froglets.
Greenhouse Frogs lay around 20 eggs in damp areas of vegetation or debris. With these frogs it is the female that usually remains close by to watch over the eggs as they develop.
There Are 6 Stages Of Metamorphosis Between Egg and Frog
Baby frogs go through several stages of metamorphosis before becoming fully formed adult frogs. For those that are born in aquatic breeding pools, there are six stages. These are:
- The Egg – This is the first stage of life, deposited in groups or clutches by the parent to develop in the protective egg.
- Tadpole Hatchling – The first larval stage after the tadpole hatches from the egg.
- Swimming Tadpole – Tadpoles have developed tails and gills, and the ability to eat algae. They also slowly develop tiny teeth on the upper jaw. This allows them to later introduce more food to their diet, including insects and plant matter.
- Emerging Limbs – Tadpoles start to develop limbs, first with the rear legs, then the front. They still have a tail at this stage, but are developing to the stage where they will soon be able to leave the breeding pool
- Froglet – At this stage they will turn into froglets, losing their tail and leaving the breeding pool. They will have developed lungs so can breathe out of the water and have lost most of their infant form. At this stage they resemble the adult frog more than the infant tadpole.
- Frog – At this stage of the frog life cycle they are fully formed and sexually mature.
Baby Frogs Drink Water Through A Skin Patch
Once a baby frog turns into a froglet, it can start to drink water but not through it’s mouth as you might suspect. In fact, frogs actually drink water through their skin. More particularly a patch of skin known as a ‘drinking patch’. This skin patch is located on the underside of their bodies, around the belly and thighs.
Baby Frog FAQs
How Many Eggs Does A Frog Lay?
Frog eggs are laid in what is often called a clutch, in breeding pools or other terrestrial locations. The clutch size can vary dramatically, with most laying between 2000 to 20,000 eggs in a cycle. Some, such as the Greenhouse Frog, lay far less, in clutches of around 20 eggs. The Common Frog on the other hand lays between 3,000-6,000 in a cycle.
Those that lay terrestrial eggs on land or on plants, tend to lay in smaller clutches than those that are laid in aquatic pools.
How Many Frog Eggs Survive?
It is believed that around 1 in every 50 frog eggs hatch successfully into a tadpole. The rest are either eaten by predators or fail to hatch.
What Do Baby Frogs Eat?
As tadpoles, babies eat algae and simple organic matter. As they develop into froglets, they become insectivores and eat a variety of insects and bugs. This includes snails, slugs, caterpillars and flies.
How Quick Do Baby Frogs Grow?
It varies by species, but generally it takes around 9-12 weeks for a tadpole to turn into a froglet. A froglet can be fully developed by around 12 weeks but it can take up to 4 years for a froglet to complete metamorphosis as a fully formed frog. The last thing to go is the tail.
How To Tell How Old A Baby Frogs Is?
It is quite easy to tell how old a baby frog is. In the tadpole stage, if it is still swimming with no limbs emerged, it is likely under 1 month of age. If they are not yet swimming then they are only a few days old!
If limbs have started to emerge but not all there yet, they are over a month, but less than 9 weeks. When all limbs are present they are froglets between 9-12 weeks old and ready to leave the breeding pool.
Natural Predators Of Baby Frogs
As tadpoles, baby frogs are vulnerable to many aquatic and semi-aquatic species, including many fish, newts and birds. In some cases, wasps are even known to eat frogs eggs.