Are Amphibians Cold-Blooded? How Do They Keep Warm In Winter?

Shirin Biswas
Mar 08, 2023 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Nov 09, 2021
They differ from mammals and other endotherms

Amphibians are rather interesting creatures due to their dual lives.

It is amazing how the animal kingdom has a class of animals that have the capacity to breathe both in water and on land! It is absolutely natural that we would want to know more about them!

Amphibians get their name from the Greek word 'amphibios', which means 'an animal leading a dual life'. This name is completely fitting for these animals since they have features and characteristics that allow them to sustain life both in water and on land.

While these features make them sound like indestructible creatures, amphibians are actually cold-blooded, which puts them in a rather difficult spot when it comes to the maintenance of body temperature.

These animals lack the internal thermostats that most warm-blooded animals such as ourselves have.

Hence, every time you spot a lizard or frog in a sunny patch of land, there is a chance that it is trying to get its daily fix of heat and warmth! Keep reading to find out about these cold-blooded animals and their wonderous physiologies!

If you enjoy reading this article all about amphibians, then why not also check out some more fun facts right here with Kidadl, starting with can frogs breathe underwater and how do amphibians breathe.

Why are amphibians cold-blooded?

Amphibians are cold-blooded animals, which means that an amphibian is not able to regulate its body temperature. They differ from mammals and other endotherms or warm-blooded organisms because such animals have an internal thermostat of sorts, which allows them to be able to regulate their body temperature according to what the environment demands.

While the environmental and evolutionary factors that have led to such differences between warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals are yet to be understood, we understand that it must have had to do with the lineage of amphibians.

Amphibians are estimated to have evolved from lobe-finned fish.

As we know, most fishes are cold-blooded as well. While thousands of amphibians now live on earth, basic evolutionary features have lasted from the first few species of frogs and toads to salamanders and other kinds of animals.

Ectotherms, or cold-blooded animals, lack an internal thermostat and hence cannot produce their own heat. This also means that they depend on the temperature of their surroundings to keep them warm. Hence, it is also very important that amphibians have ample basking spots, as well as areas where they can cool off!

Are there warm-blooded amphibians?

Unfortunately, there are no warm-blooded amphibian species known to us yet.

This also means that since these animals do not have any methods of regulating their own body temperature, they have to live in a climate that isn't too harsh on either side of the spectrum. Amphibians are characterized by thin, slimy skin.

Such thin skin also allows for the movement of oxygen and water, which is why all amphibian species lose water from their bodies rather rapidly and prefer to live around water bodies such as ponds and rivers.

While constant removal from heat sources is bad for amphibians and reptiles, even constant heat can harm these animals. Since there is no way in which the heat received from external sources can be used in other processes, too much warmth can cause these animals to become slow and disoriented.

This means that if you have a toad or a frog as a pet and do not maintain the temperature of its enclosure or do not provide it with some time for basking, the animal may die.

Warm And Cold-Blooded Animals Differences

Warm-blooded animals or endotherms are those which can produce heat within their bodies. When a member of the endotherm group feels hot, it simple stops producing heat in order to ensure that its body can maintain an optimum temperature.

Species of birds, for example, can regulate their body temperature through an internal thermostat during the winter season. However, if a habitat becomes too cold for some animal species, adults are likely to migrate towards warmer areas until the seasons have changed and they can lay eggs again.

Cold-blooded animals, on the other hand, are largely dependent on their habitat and the heating and cooling mechanisms within it for making sure that their blood isn't too hot or cold.

For example, a lizard is an animal that is not be able to produce heat within its own body if its habitat becomes too cold during the winter season.

One of the main and most important points of difference between amphibians and reptiles is that the former group can live a dual life.

Amphibians are characterized by their ability to soak in oxygen from water bodies like a fish does with its gills. Such slimy, thin and porous skin is a feature that is typical to amphibians and has given scientists something to ponder over throughout the centuries.

At the same time, amphibians also have lungs which allow them to stay out of water when they need to hunt for terrestrial prey or maybe bask in the sun for a little while.

An amphibian also lacks the scales that are often visible on a reptile's body. An amphibian's skin is however thin and porous, which helps in the absorption of oxygen inside water bodies.

One thing that ectotherms do to meet their temperature requirements is to spend winter and spring in partial hibernation. During this period, the animal will stop consuming food and refrain from taking any active part in the environment.

How do amphibians stay warm?

Amphibians and reptiles are cold-blooded animals, and hence, they maintain their body temperature by spending time in the sun. Since these animals have lungs, even partially aquatic amphibians such as salamanders and newts can spend a lot of time out of the water.

In order to stay warm, amphibians bask in the sun. Unlike mammals, birds and other animal species, frogs and salamanders have to live near a water body to cool down after they heat up too much from basking in the sun.

Mammals and birds have the ability to stay away from water bodies for longer periods of time since their skin does not allow for the loss of as much water as in the case of amphibians.

Lizards and frogs often don't eat any food when their environment gets too chilly for them so that their bodily heat is preserved.

How do amphibians survive the winter?

During the winter, amphibians stop nearly all physiological processes, such as laying eggs. In order to make sure that their body temperature doesn't lower too much with the changing seasons, amphibians and reptiles live in burrows at this time.

This is a very effective method for the conservation of energy and body heat. Some frogs and toads even stop eating during this time when in captivity.

This is an evolutionary habit that has lasted throughout generations. It thus becomes essential for pet owners to recognize this conservation method and not get too worried about their pet's lack of activity.

Can we help keep them warm?

Tadpoles and grown up amphibians often suffer a lot due to them being cold-blooded. As human beings that have resources to help these animals, it becomes out responsibility to make sure that they do not suffer too greatly.

Conservation efforts include protecting these species during the winter and ensuring that they have natural or artificial basking spots that could help in maintaining bodily temperatures.

Amphibians also lose a lot of water through their porous skin, and hence, pet amphibians should away have access to some water.

Even if it is a land-based amphibian that you have as a member of your family, make sure to let it bask in the sun just as frequently as you let it have a swim in a tank. Amphibians require UVB absorption in order to make use of calcium and other nutrients in their diet.

Hence, a bit of sun exposure is likely to mean more to these animals than it would to human beings!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 'Are amphibians cold-blooded?' then why not take a look at 'Difference between a frog and a toad', or 'Poison dart frog facts'.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

Read full bio >