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Frogs and toads

Thirteen species of frogs and toads are found in Michigan, and they are an important part of our state’s ecosystems.

The sound samples below will help you learn the species of frogs and toads that are found in Michigan. You can study the sounds so you know the difference between species and can refer back to them when you hear something you cannot identify.

Download frog sound samples (20 MB zipped file).

  • Frogs and toads are amphibians. Amphibians usually lay unshelled eggs in water or moist places, and most species have a gilled larval stage that changes into a lung-breathing adult. Amphibians depend on the outside environment for body heat because they do not produce it internally and have smooth or warty skin that can be quite penetrable, so most species remain in or near water or moist habitats. Frogs and toads share many similarities. Both have wide heads, short bodies, no ribs, and hip bones and legs specialized for hopping or jumping.

    Frogs vs. toads

    Toads have a dry, warty skin and short hind legs and lay their eggs in chains. Frogs have smooth, moist skin and long hind legs and lay their eggs in clusters. Frogs and toads are usually colored in browns or greens, providing good camouflage from predators looking down both in water and on land. Their bellies are lighter in color, making them harder for underwater predators looking up to see against the bright sky. Frogs and toads also have skin glands producing chemicals that are distasteful and may be poisonous in some species. The warty bumps on toads contain chemicals that can repel, sicken or even kill animals that try to eat them.

    Frogs and toads survive the winter by hibernating 

    As temperatures begin to drop below freezing, some frog species will seek shelter at the bottoms of lakes and ponds. Other species will burrow into the ground. Those wintering in deeper waters or burrowed deep underground are protected from freezing. Others, such as the chorus frogs, tree frogs and wood frogs, have special “anti-freeze” substances in their bodies that allow them to survive while buried in shallow soil and leaf litter!

  • Eggs are soft and shell-less and are laid in water.

    Female frogs and toads typically produce hundreds to thousands of eggs.

    In a few days or weeks, the eggs hatch into fishlike tadpoles that gradually transform into four-legged adults. This transformation is called metamorphosis, which means to “change form.”

    Tadpoles are covered with a thin skin and have long, flat tails and small, rounded mouths.

    Most tadpoles are herbivores, eating algae and other soft plant materials, but they also scavenge dead animals.

    Depending on species, the tadpole stage may last from several weeks to two or three years.

    During metamorphosis, the tadpole undergoes dramatic changes to practically every part of its body. For example:

    • The legs must develop, and the tail is absorbed.
    • The mouth broadens, and the digestive tract changes to that of a predator instead of an herbivore.
    • Respiration shifts to the use of lungs as gills shrink.
    • Many tadpoles and young frogs are lost to predators. Probably, for this reason, many frog species breed in small, temporary ponds that lack fish and larger predators.
  • Never handle amphibians when you have insect repellent, sunscreen or soap on your hands – these thin-skinned animals can be harmed or killed by chemicals we consider harmless.

    Always wash your hands after handling a frog or toad!

    Touching a toad does not cause warts.

    Frogs and toads are an important food source for a variety of predators, including herons, mink, raccoons, foxes, snakes, snapping turtles, fish and larger frogs.

    They are efficient predators themselves. Insects form the greatest portion of their diets, and humans clearly benefit from their consumption of insect pests.

  • Frogs and toads face a variety of threats in Michigan and around the world, such as habitat loss, pollution, illegal collection and overharvest.

    Frogs and toads play an important role in the natural environment by contributing to ecological systems as predator and prey.

    Take and possession of Michigan’s native reptiles and amphibians is highly regulated. See the current Michigan Fishing Guide for these important rules and a list of protected species.

    Three Michigan species are currently listed as threatened or species of special concern:

    Blanchard’s cricket frog – threatened

    Fowler’s toad – special concern

    Pickerel frog – special concern

    You can help frogs and toads by:

    • Learning all you can about our native frog and toad species.
    • Visiting nature centers, parks and zoos that offer programs on amphibians.
    • Knowing state and federal laws that protect frogs and toads and their habitats.
    • Purchasing a fishing license.
    • Supporting conservation efforts to protect wetlands and other habitats.
    • Never buying wild, native-caught frogs and toads from pet dealers.
    • Never releasing non-native frogs and toads (or other animals) into the wild.