Frog larvae, also known as tadpoles, breathe through gills, as they are aquatic. As tadpoles metamorphose into adult frogs, they begin to breathe through lungs. The lungs of frogs aren’t well-developed, so frogs also breathe through their skin.
A frog’s croaking may be annoying, but to counteract its aesthetically ugly voice, it has one of the most fascinating abilities in the animal world—frogs breathe through both their lungs and skin. Not only that, frogs actually change how they breathe as they mature from a baby frog to a mature adult frog!
Frogs Are Amphibians
The name amphibian comes from the Greek word amphibios, which means ‘a being with a double life’. Their “double life” refers to the fact that amphibians can coexist between living on land and living in water.
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The frog, like its other amphibians cousins, such as toads and salamanders, begins life in the water. The female frog will lay her soft transparent eggs in the water (unless you’re a Surinam toad). Out of the eggs will come baby frogs! However, the baby frogs, or tadpoles, look nothing like their parents.
They have an alien sperm-like appearance with a large flat oval head that tapers into a tail. For the first few weeks of its life, the tadpole swims around eating algae and aquatic plants, building its reserves for when it will begin its transformation into an adult.
This transformation, called metamorphosis, will happen over many weeks, wherein the sperm-like tadpole will undergo a host of physiological changes, growing in size, developing four legs, and slowly retracting its tail.
These changes will make the frog eligible to make the land its permanent abode.
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Astylosternus robustus or the Hairy Frog can create additional skin folds help it breathe through its skin during strenuous activity. (Photo Credit : Gustavocarra/Wikimedia Commons)
This becomes a concern when the male frogs embark on their very elaborate and energy-consuming mating ritual.
To make sure it doesn’t run out of breath, a male frog will create additional folds in its skin. This action makes it look like the frog has erupted hundreds of gruesome moles on its back, so it’s a good thing the females don’t care much about traditional beauty!
A Final Word
If you think about it, it’s remarkable that one animal can breathe through its gills, its lungs, and its skin—all in the same lifetime. We frequently think that breathing is performed by a separate breathing organ—gills for fish, trachea for insects, or lungs for humans—but for the frog, breathing is a far more dynamic and flexible process!