- Frogs lay their eggs in water; they begin their lives with an aquatic tadpole stage with gills and metamorphose into adults with lungs.
- Frogs don’t have ribcages, so they breath by a “swallowing” action that forces air into the lungs of adult frogs; oxygen can also be absorbed through the frog’s thin, moist skin.
- Hundreds of millions of years ago, amphibians were the first vertebrates to live on land (National Zoo).
- More than 75% of the world’s frogs and toads live in tropical rainforests (National Zoo), but they can also be found in the Arctic Circle and in deserts (Rick Emmer).
- Frogs and toads are ectotherms, which means that they don’t make their own heat to keep warm. Their body temperature fluctuates with the environment in which they’re found.
- Frogs hibernate in the winter – if they’re aquatic frogs, they hibernate near the surface of the water or near water in mud; if they’re terrestrial frogs they can bury themselves in mud, find cracks in logs, or just hide in leaf litter (Rick Emmer).
- Frogs (as well as other amphibians and reptiles) don’t freeze to death in the winter, because they have anti-freeze (or molecules called cryoprotectants) in their cells! Specific chemicals prevent the critical cells from freezing, so that the frog can revive as temperatures increase in spring.
- In my neck of the woods (the mid-Atlantic U.S.), the first frog we’ll hear calling is the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). These little guys can come out when it’s still pretty chilly – I’ve been out on spring peeper walks wearing a heavy winter jacket!
- You can identify frogs and toads by their vocalizations, just like birds!
Unfortunately, many frogs are in danger of extinction worldwide. One-third of all frog species are in danger of extinction due to a fungus commonly called the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Habitat loss is an even bigger problem for frogs and other amphibians. Often, frogs are viewed as the “canary in a coalmine” when it comes to the health of various ecosystems. When we start losing frogs, scientists recommend that we really start paying attention.
So what’s a greenmomster to do? Locally, be sure to protect frog habitat; the areas where frogs live are often sensitive areas that affect the quality of water. Is there a new road or housing project being put into your neighborhood? Have the builders checked for the presence of frogs and other amphibians? Get busy – maybe this is your chance to “speak for the trees!” You can also join Frogwatch USA and help with citizen science to keep track of local frogs. Got a lawn? Check out the FWS Homeowner’s Guide to Protecting Frogs – it’s a great guide for reducing use of pesticides and herbicides that can harm frogs. Globally, consider supporting organizations involved in frog protection – Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (for frogs in Panama), Amphibian Ark, or you can even adopt a frog at the World Wildlife Fund. So many options to help – luckily we’ve got an extra day this year to work on it!