Some people find frogs cute; others wouldn’t even look at them, let alone touch these creatures. In whichever group you’re in, one thing is for sure: frogs are essential animals in the animal kingdom. They are fascinating creatures which scientists are continuously studying.
However, sometimes it may be challenging to classify frogs in terms of amphibians or reptile features. Today, we will clear up any possible misconceptions.
First of all, you should know that reptiles and amphibians are vertebrates; in simple words, these animals belong to families characterized by a backbone. However, reptiles and amphibians are quite different in many aspects contrary to general belief. Today we will follow some rules of Herpetology – the science of studying reptiles and amphibians, and learn some critical information about both these groups.
What Are Frogs?
Frogs are part of the amphibian family. They are tailless creatures that belong to the order Anura. When we think about the animals which are strictly classed as frogs, we can say that they are limited only to the Ranidae (true frogs) family. But if we think about frogs more broadly, the name is usually used to distinguish those smooth-skinned, hopping, anurans from squat, cute-faced creatures called toads.
Here are some of the main characteristics of frogs we know about:
- Frogs have protruding eyes that are always focused on their prey;
- Frogs have no tail;
- These creatures feature solid, webbed hind feet;
- Their feet have developed through years, so they are capable of both leaping and swimming;
- Frogs possess very smooth and moist skin;
- While some frogs spend their lives predominantly in the aquatic environment, some species live on land, even on trees and in caves;
For instance, the Hyperolius genus of Sedge Frogs can climb using special adhesive toe disks. On the other hand, there are the flying frogs, the Rhacophorus genus, which are three-dwelling.
And finally, one of the most impressive types of frogs are the Old World Rhacophoridae, which can glide somewhere around 40 to 50 feet; how do they do it? Well, they expand the webbing between their toes and fingers. Impressive, right?
Most frogs have poisonous skin glands; however, these toxins are not harmful and do not provide enough protection from the predators, such as snakes, birds, or mammals.
What frogs do for their protection is called camouflage; no wonder frogs have those “military” colors, so they can perfectly blend with the backgrounds. Other frog species can change color.
Some frog species come with bright colors on their underparts, making the animal flash as they start moving. This is another tactic for confusing their enemies or simply warning them of the frogs’ poison.
Most of the frogs will feed themselves with insects; others would prefer small arthropods, even worms. However, as odd as it might sound, many frogs will eat rodents, other frogs, and even species of reptiles.
Are Frogs Reptiles?
Well, the answer is straightforward: no, they are not reptiles. Frogs are amphibians. We want to make sure that everyone will understand why these creatures are not reptiles, mainly by explaining some of the most important differences between the two species.
Why Aren’t Frogs Reptiles?
While there are a lot of similarities between frogs and small reptiles, such as turtles or lizards, once you dig deeper into science, you will get to know the opposite. The similarities between frogs and lizards, for instance, led some people to think both of these groups belong to the reptiles family.
Let’s start with the similarities. Both reptiles and frogs are vertebrates, so these animals have backbones.
Adult amphibians and all the reptiles that have been studied so far have four legs or modified flippers that help them swim and jump. Many frog species and reptiles species spend half of their life in water, while the other half on land.
Most of the reptiles and frogs, are carnivorous. As such, they will eat other animals to survive rather than plant species.
Both reptiles and frogs are popular as “cold-blooded” creatures. This means they cannot change their body temperature internally like mammals, but are dependent on external factors.
So, to survive and have the right body temperature, they will lay under the sun when it is cold outside or hide in the shadows during hot summer days. If you want the scientific definition of cold-blooded animals, you can call them “ectothermic.”
Some cute reptiles, such as tiny turtles and terrapins, look very similar to frogs, so most people could say that these animal groups are related. Not to mention amphibians like newts and salamanders that look so similar to reptiles like lizards.
Amphibians Vs. Reptiles
The most crucial difference between amphibians and reptiles is the process of growing up and multiplying- starting with their eggs.
Most people do not know that the eggs of amphibians and reptiles are quite different than you would expect. Amphibians will need water to lay their eggs in. A jelly-looking substance protects these eggs.
However, there is no exact defending barrier that can protect the eggs of the amphibians from the surrounding predators. This groups of species of which frogs are part of are called Anamniotes.
Reptiles, on the other hand, are Amniotes. This means reptiles are protecting their embryos from the possible outside dangers using membranes. These membranes are tough and look like skin, protecting the babies from the outside world.
Because there is no restriction in terms of depositing babies in water, amniotes can develop in many habitats. No wonder reptiles and mammals are everywhere, and they are so successful. However, when it comes to tropical frogs, the eggs may be stored somewhere on land albeit in a moist location.
Frogs Breeding Process
So, the regular breeding of frogs will usually take place in freshwater, like most amphibians. Depending on the species, the eggs (which are in a significant number, somewhere between a few hundred to several thousand) will start floating off in clusters, sheets, or strings.
These eggs may become attached to various water plants and float with them on the water’s surface; unfortunately, some eggs might sink.
Tadpoles hatch in very few days or a week or more. Then they metamorphose into froglets within a couple of months to three years. The froglets will develop their limbs and lungs, then the tail will be absorbed. Finally, the mouth will become typically froglike.
Metamorphosis During Frog’s Life
Although their main organs will develop in the first months, amphibians’ bodies will completely change during their lives. This whole process is called metamorphosis. When you hear this word, you might start thinking about the spiritual meaning.
But no, this process begins with the larvae stage, which usually takes place in water, and ends up with entirely different bodies, once the frogs are complete adults.
The frog embryos are surrounded by this jelly-like substance. Frog larvae are also called tadpoles. These tadpoles will develop right inside this jelly-like substance.
As tadpoles, frogs will only have gills, the specific body parts that are essential in breathing under the water. As you can imagine, frogs do not have legs or arms at the beginning of their lives but only tails to help them swim.
During their existence, the frogs’ bodies will start changing. Slowly, their tails and gills will disappear, and the lungs will immediately develop. Eventually, the larvae will turn into adult frogs and start having the power to jump and breathe air.
Frogs, as amphibians, need to keep their skin all damp. This way, frogs can adapt to the habitats they will live in. If the weather is too hot, their skin will immediately dry out. On the other hand, reptiles can retain moisture efficiently, helping them live in a wide range of environments, including even arid surroundings, like deserts.
In A Nutshell
Now that you have passed through all the information above, if anyone asks you about frogs, you will know to tell them that these creatures are not reptiles. Think about the eggs mainly and the metamorphosis process. It is the time to rehearse a studied answer with quick facts that will convince the people around you.