How Do Frogs Breathe? Respiration In Amphibians Explained

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 01, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Oct 25, 2021
The Mission golden eyed tree frog.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.0 Min

Frogs are amphibians and can live both on land and in water.

The respiratory system of frogs is quite unique, which enables them to survive in different habitats. They are able to breathe using three different pathways to adapt to their surroundings easily. 

The term amphibian itself refers to the animals with dual life, both terrestrial and aquatic life. Just like salamanders and toads, a frog is also a cold-blooded animal with moist skin. These creatures undergo four stages in their life cycle, a process called metamorphosis.

The adult frogs lay clusters of gelatinous eggs called frogspawn. These then develop into black-colored tadpoles with a flattened tail used for locomotion.

The tadpoles respire through their gills. As they develop, the tadpoles begin to grow lungs as accessory respiratory organs. After the tadpole stage, frogs undergo gradual metamorphosis into the adult stage that usually lasts for about 24 hours.

This major physical change is carried out by the synthesis of the hormone thyroxine in their body. Their lungs become fully developed and their outer skin becomes tough with the growth of sensory organs.

The gills within their gill pouch completely disappear. The adult frog becomes fully capable to respire through its lungs, called pulmonary respiration. A frog breathes through its skin, a process called cutaneous respiration.

Apart from these two respiratory processes, frogs have the ability to breathe through their mouth as well, which is called buccopharyngeal respiration. Keep on reading to know more intriguing facts about the breathing mechanism of frogs.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read more animal facts like how do amphibians breathe? And how do gills work? Here on Kidadl.

Breathing Mechanism Of Frogs Underwater

Frogs breathe underwater through their skin via cutaneous respiration. Their skin surface possesses numerous blood vessels through which gaseous exchange takes place. Their moist skin is thick and bears a large number of pores. Oxygen from water enters their blood capillaries through these pores. This process of breathing through their skin is called cutaneous respiration.

Cutaneous respiration in frogs is not restricted underwater but also takes place on land. In their early stage of metamorphosis, frogs respire just like fish. The tadpoles have gills through which they respire underwater.

But as the frog matures into the full adult stage, they lose their gills. These animals thus adapt themselves to their surroundings. The numerous blood capillaries under their tough skin absorb oxygen dissolved in the water.

This process enables them to remain submerged for about 4-7 hours. However, they will drown if the water lacks sufficient oxygen.

When submerged in water, frogs breathe mostly through this process, even though they have lungs. Their low metabolic rate helps them to survive for long periods without food. Some frog species have ears capable of detecting vibrations both in water and land, which help them avoid predators and find prey.

Breathing Mechanism Of Frogs On Land

The adult frogs breathe on land with the help of their primitive and underdeveloped lungs. They develop lungs after they mature during metamorphosis.

This mode of respiration is called pulmonary respiration. Unlike the higher animals and humans, the process of exchange of gases through the frog lung is quite slow and thus, oxygen diffusion is mostly carried out by other modes of breathing in their body.

Frogs can breathe using their lungs when they are active and require more oxygen supply, which cutaneous respiration cannot suffice for. Since they lack a diaphragm, there's no chest muscle involved in their respiration process.

These creatures have the ability to breathe through their skin, apart from their lung to survive on land. Frogs have thick skin containing numerous pores and blood vessels.

Their moist skin draws oxygen from the air directly into the blood vessels. Apart from these, the frogs can breathe through their mouth. This is called buccopharyngeal respiration.

The frogs are able to breathe oxygen through their nostrils and exhale carbon dioxide through their lungs by forceful expansion and contraction of their throat. This additional respiratory feature is due to the presence of moist lining on their buccal surface.

A Close-up Focus Stacked Portrait of a Green Frog.

What are the different parts and functions of the respiratory system in frogs?

Frogs breathe using their skin, lungs, and mouth. However, they breathe through their skin most of the time. The frog's moist and thick skin absorbs oxygen through the blood vessels present on the skin surface, allowing for gaseous exchange on water and land.

Although their lungs are underdeveloped unlike humans, these amphibians choose pulmonary respiration to breathe when they become extremely active. The larval stage bears gills, and dissolved oxygen from water is taken up by these frog gills.

The tadpole swims and eats plants in water for a few weeks before they mature. Once the frog matures, it undergoes a final shedding of its skin and develops legs for locomotion. The gills of the tadpole disappear during this stage and the lungs develop gradually.

Adult frogs use their nostrils and mouth to inhale oxygen and exhale out carbon dioxide from their lungs. Just like they absorb oxygen from the air, they can also consume water through their skin!

Which stage does the frog start to breathe air?

The life cycle of the amphibian undergoes four distinct stages during which the respiratory mechanisms change in their bodies.

The adult frogs lay clusters of gelatinous eggs called frogspawn. These then develop into black-colored tadpoles with a flattened tail used for locomotion. At first, the larval stage of frogs breathes using their gills underwater.

They start to develop lungs after just four weeks and slowly the gills of the frog disappear. The frogs breathe through their skin underwater during this stage.

Once they become mature, the adult frog uses its lungs to breathe air through its nostrils and throat. Frogs, toads, and other amphibian species breathe through the pores on their skin. These amphibians can camouflage themselves to avoid being seen by predators and, which hibernate during winters.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how do frogs breathe? Then why not take a look at how do frogs mate, or how do dolphins sleep?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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