About The River

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How do Frogs and Toads Adapt to Winter?

Ever wonder how the frogs and toads keep warm during this cold?

In the fall, frogs first need to find a place to make their winter home, a living space called a hibernaculum, that will protect them from weather extremes and from predators. The frog then "sleeps" away the winter by slowing down its metabolism. When spring arrives, it wakes up and leaves the hibernaculum, ready for mating and eating.

Aquatic frogs and toads such as the leopard frog and American bullfrog usually hibernate underwater. They do not, however, dig into the mud like turtles ~ turtles are able to slow down their metabolism in a much more extreme way than frogs and can get by with almost no oxygen. Aquatic frogs need more oxygen ~ they lie just above the mud, or only partially buried in the mud, so they are near the oxygen ~ rich water. They may even occasionally slowly swim around.

Terrestrial frogs and toads typically hibernate on land. Those frogs and toads that are good diggers like the American toads burrow deep into the soil, safely below the frost line. Some frogs, such as the wood frog and the spring peeper, are not good diggers and so must scout out their winter homes in deep cracks and crevices in logs or rocks, or they might dig down into the leaf litter. 

Yet these frozen frogs are not dead ~ they have a kind of natural anti~freeze in their bodies. Ice crystals form in their organs and body cavity, but a high concentration of glucose in the frog's vital organs prevents freezing. A partially frozen frog will stop breathing: its heart will stop beating and it will seem dead. When spring approaches and their hibernaculum warms up above freezing, the frog's frozen body will thaw, and it will come back to life.


And for more good news. I heard on the radio that weeks of below zero weather should kill off some of the pests we do not like! I am hoping that means the woodtick population will be minimal or better yet, extinct for my first spring hike. ;-)

How about you, do you ever wonder how some of your favorite animals, bugs, birds and amphibians survive in the cold?



  1. Wow, that is amazing! I didn't know they actually froze then "thawed" back out. It's like magic! And I love the word "hibernaculum." It sounds so cool!

  2. That is fascinating. I had NO idea. And, I am not even sure I had ever wondered about them before...but know I'll never forget.

  3. I hope you are right about freezinf temperatures killing ticks...and maybe spiders? I don't like spiders

  4. That is so interesting!! I heard that the temps we are having MAY be helping with the emerald ash borer. Only with the larvae so far though. I hope it's true, and I am with you on hoping it helps with all the ticks!


High Fives from Wisconsin!

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