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What's Moving with Madi

November 28, 2022

In the last What's Moving we learned about how turtles survive the winter, now lets learn more about frogs! Unfortunately, they don't use fuzzy socks either...

Just like turtles, frogs are ectotherms. They do not produce their own body heat and get heat from an outside source.

There are several options for frogs to survive the winter depending on their species. Some frogs burrow into the ground and stay below the frost line. Other frogs stay in the leaf litter where they freeze over winter and some stay underwater like turtles.

American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) and other frogs that can dig like to spend the winter burrowed in the ground below the frost line. The burrows range in depth depending on temperature and snow cover and can be up to 3 feet deep. Frogs that burrow usually move up and down within the ground as the frost line changes throughout winter.

Frogs that do not have very good digging abilities like wood frogs (Lithobates sylvatica) and spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) bury themselves in the leaf litter or find crevices in logs, rocks or trees. However, these winter residencies do not provide much protection from the cold and the frog freezes. So how does the frog survive being frozen alive? They have antifreeze technology in their bodies! These frogs have very high levels of glucose in their bodies which prevents vital organs from freezing while there are ice crystals in other body cavities. During the winter these frogs hearts stop beating and they stop breathing. But as the weather begins to warm the frog thaws and their bodily functions resume!

Leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens), American bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus), and other aquatic frogs spend their winter in water. Unlike turtles, frogs spending winter in the water do not burrow into the muddy bottom of the lake. Instead they sit on the lake bottom. This is because their metabolism can not be supported by the minimal levels of oxygen within the mud. Frogs stay on the bottom of the lake instead where they are exposed to the oxygen rich water. These frogs will occasionally move around or swim along the bottom very slowly.

Frogs have adapted very cool (no pun intended) ways of surviving the winter! Check out the links below to learn more:

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