Ready for the lowdown on these amazing amphibians? Learning hats on, gang, let’s discover the frog life cycle…

The frog life cycle

Frog Lifecycle | Bull frog sitting on a lilypad

Frogs are animal athletes, with strong powerful legs that allow them to leap out of harm’s way. These powerful limbs are the secret to their success – and incredibly, it takes baby frogs weeks and weeks to grow them!

Like beautiful butterflies, frogs and toads undergo an astonishing transformation – which is called ‘metamorphosis‘ – as they grow up. From jelly-like eggs laid in water, they grow into wriggling tadpoles, and finally grow legs suitable for land!

But how does this mesmerising metamorphosis work? Let’s have a look at each stage of the frog life cycle in turn, to find out…

Stage 1: Extraordinary eggs

Frog Lifecycle | large clumps of frogspawn

It all starts with adult frogs laying hundreds of tiny eggs, which clump together in groups known as frogspawn. This happens in early spring, when the weather is just starting to get warmer. Spotting frogspawn is often thought of as being a key sign of spring!

You can hunt for frogspawn in shallow, still water – a garden pond, for example! As the eggs are defenceless, they’re usually laid among vegetation and just below the surface of the water, to give them some protection.

Frog Life cycle | frogspawn nestled between reeds

If you’re lucky enough to spot some of these strange eggs, pay attention to their shape. Frogs lay ‘frogspawn’, which looks like a round cluster of eggs, while toads lay ‘toadspawn’, which comes in long ribbons.

DID YOU KNOW?
As far as scientists are concerned, there’s no difference between frogs and toads! They have different characteristics, but share the same family tree.

In the frogspawn, the baby frogs start out as tiny black dots surrounded by a jelly-like substance. Over time, they become comma-shaped, as their tails begin to develop – amazing!

Stage 2: Teeny tadpoles!

Frog Life Cycle | tadpoles swim in pond

After spending 1-3 weeks eating the yolk of their egg, the baby frog hatches into the big, wide world.

Now, the baby frogs are known as tadpoles. They have gills, a mouth, and a long tail, which they need for swimming!

DID YOU KNOW?
The tadpole stage of the frog life cycle is also known as the larval stage. Tadpoles are frog larvae, in the same way that caterpillars are butterfly larvae!

For the first week or two after hatching, tadpoles won’t move around very much, as they’re still absorbing some nutrition from the yolk of their egg. However, once the yolk is all gone, the tadpoles are big and strong enough to venture out into their watery world!

Unlike adult frogs, tadpoles can’t go on land – so they feed on plant material filtered from the water, and tear off tiny chunks of nearby vegetation.

Frog Life Cycle | Tadpole close up, showing tail, eyes, and mouth

The legless, water-bound tadpoles slowly metamorphose into frogs over the next 14 weeks.

First, they grow back legs, then front legs too! Soon after, their body starts to change shape, and they’re able to start eating insects.

Frog Life cycle | tadpole that has grown all its legs, but still has a tail

Next, the tadpoles’ tails shrink away, and skin grows over their gills, as they develop lungs and eardrums! These are super important steps, as they prepare the tadpole for life on land.

Once their gills and tails are gone forever, tadpoles undergo one last 24-hour push, where the metamorphosis completes. Once this stage is finished, the baby frogs emerge from the water as tiny adults!

Amazingly, tadpoles are able to control the timing of their transformation. If they’re living in a dangerous environment, like a pond full of hungry fish, they will metamorphose more quickly, to make their escape! On the other hand, if their pond has lots of plants to munch through, and few predators – or if it’s extra cold on land – tadpoles can delay their metamorphosis, and remain in the water for up to a year. Wow!

Stage 3: Fully-grown frog!

Frog Life Cycle | Tiny adult frog sits on leag

And there you have it – the frogs are all grown up, and ready to head out into the big wide world!

As adults, frogs and toads are much less reliant on water. So long as they stick to the shade and don’t dry out, they can live on land – but they often return to ponds and lakes for a splash!

Before too long, the females will look for water to lay her own eggs. Once that’s happened, the life cycle is complete – what a frog-tastic life they lead!

Frog life cycle | a circular diagram of the lifecycle
Thanks to S. Hermann & F. Richter; Jill Wellington; PollyDot; David Clode, and Venita Oberholster for the images used in this article.

Have you ever found frogspawn, or spotted a frog? Let us know in the comments below!

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