With their big eyes and bulbous bodies, frogs are the most adorable of the amphibians. But frogs are also a whole lot more than adorable, being among the most diverse animals in the world. While some spend their time in the trees, others settle in the sand. While some are small, others are substantial. And while some blend into their surroundings, others demand to be seen.
Here are a few froggy facts, and a few of the cutest frogs found around the world today.
Types of Frogs
Representing over 7,600 of the world’s 8,600 amphibian species, the Anura, commonly called the frogs, comprise all sorts of short-bodied, tailless amphibians.
Coming in an assortment of shapes and sizes and a full spectrum of colors, the creatures in this taxonomic order also inhabit a variety of habitats and fulfill a variety of ecological functions. There are aquatic scavengers and arboreal assassins.
What Do Frogs Look Like?
Though they all share a similar body shape, some frogs have slender torsos and long legs suited for swimming or scaling trees, while others have stout torsos and stubby legs built for burrowing. And frogs also vary in size. While the smallest frogs are around one-third of an inch in length, the largest are approximately 13 inches long.
Whatever their shape and size, however, the members of the Anura order tend to adopt one of two separate adaptive coloration approaches, allowing them to catch prey, avoid predators and survive in the wild. While frogs with blotchy brown, green and gray skin disguise themselves to dodge threats, frogs with bright skin advertise their presence to stay alive, warning the world that they are not to be trifled with.
Where Do Frogs Live?
In the 250 million years that these amphibians have wandered the world, they’ve made their way onto every continent except Antarctica. In that time, each species of frog has adapted to its environment, whether it found itself in a tropical forest, a steamy swamp or an arid, dusty desert. In fact, the territories of some frogs even extend into the frigid Arctic Circle, where the cold-tolerant critters cover themselves in soil and leaf litter to fight off the frost.
What Do Frogs Eat?
Most frogs are satiated with meals of insects, worms, snails, slugs and spiders. Yet some frogs have bigger appetites, devouring small reptiles, rodents and birds, as well as other amphibians. A few species even eat plant matter, supplementing their carnivorous diets with sides of fruits, flowers and nectar.
How Long Do Frogs Live?
Widely varied is the longevity of frogs in the wild, with some species living for only a short time and other species surviving for stretches of over 35 years. That said, whatever their lifespan, these amphibians pass through several stages of growth, transforming from filmy frogspawn and long-tailed tadpoles to lanky froglets and full adult frogs.
As they transform, the animals cultivate their froggy charms, with these 10 frogs topping the charts of amphibian cuteness.
1. African Dwarf Frog (Genus: Hymenochirus)
Classified into four separate species, African dwarf frogs live underwater, in the shallow streams and ponds of West and Central Africa. Ranging in color from a mottled green to a mottled brown, these cuties tend to lurk at the bottom of the water, where their backs blend in with the rocks and mud.
Using their webbed feet for swimming and for shoveling food into their mouths, these fully aquatic frogs are small, around 3 inches long, and consume whatever they can cram into their maws, whether it's dead or alive.
2. American Bull Frog (Species: Lithobates catesbeianus)
American bullfrogs have big brown eyes and big olive bodies, covered in blotches and bands of brown. Native to North America, they inhabit large bodies of water such as swamps and wetlands and reach up to 8 inches from snout to rear.
Named after their masculine mating call, the charismatic males of the species make up to three separate sounds, including advertisement calls to attract female admirers, territorial calls to threaten male competitors, and combat calls to announce their intentions for a fight.
As ambush predators, these frogs prey on all sorts of species, from the typical frog food of insects and other invertebrates to small snakes, small mammals and other frogs. The trick to their diverse diet is their speed. When a bullfrog sees something scrumptious, it shoots outs its tongue, surrounding its target and pulling it into its mouth — a process which takes around 0.07 seconds from start to finish.
3. Blue Poison Dart Frog (Species: Dendrobates tinctorius)
Found in the forests of Brazil and Suriname, the blue poison dart frog is a small-sized amphibian that grows to a length of 2 inches long. As its name suggests, the species’ skin is bright blue and covered in a smattering of black blotches that are unique to the individual.
While the black allows these frogs to be individually identified, scientists suspect that the blue acts as a sort of warning, telling potential predators that the frogs’ skin is toxic. In fact, the blue frog is coated in poisonous alkaloids, which paralyze predators after a single taste.
Scientists think that the diet of these beautiful frogs contributes to their toxicity. The blue poison dart frog feeds on fire ants, which could cause their toxicity. In addition to fiery ants, the frogs also feast on flies, mites, maggots and spiders.
4. Common Coquí Frog (Species: Eleutherodactylus coquí)
Categorized as a habitat generalist, the common coquí inhabits a wide variety of environments in Puerto Rico and the surroundings islands, including the densest forests, the steepest mountains and the busiest urban streets. In these varied habitats, the mottled, muddy-brown frogs munch on ants and other arthropods and call to one another in their distinctive “co-qui” choruses.
While most frogs lay their eggs in water, coquís lay their eggs on land, reducing their need to live near streams and swamps. Emerging into the world on the leaves of trees, coquís hatch as teensy-tiny froglets, with short tails that vanish shortly after hatching. At around eight months, they grow to their full-fledged size of 1 to 1-and-a-half inches.
5. Cuban Tree Frog (Species: Osteopilus septentrionalis)
A native to Cuba, the Caymans and the Bahamas, the Cuban tree frog has blotchy brown, beige and gray skin and a taste for travel. Since the 1800s, this species has hitchhiked on shipments of produce and potted plants, making its way to several new settings across the Americas, only to threaten the native frogs in each of its new stomping grounds.
As the largest tree frog to step its sticky toes on the trees and shrubs of North America, these 2-to-6-inch frogs consume a wide variety of foods, including native tree frogs. Even the tadpoles of Cuban tree frogs compete with the tadpoles of native frogs, making the species an even stronger invasive threat.
6. Desert Rain Frog (Species: Breviceps macrops)
Nestled in the sandy shores of Southwestern Africa, the desert rain frog is a stout species with short limbs and a shorter snout. Ranging from 1 to 2-and-a-half inches long, the species is beige and brown, and almost always covered in sand.
Living in an arid environment, the desert rain frog survives by burrowing underground, where it waits for precipitation. When precipitation does come, typically in the form of fog, the frog surfaces from its burrow and shuffles over the surface of the sand. It then munches on insects and insect larvae, absorbing some much-needed moisture through its porous skin.
7. Glass Frog (Family: Centrolenidae)
Glass frogs are a family of tree frogs that thrive throughout South America. Though there are over 160 separate species of these adorable amphibians, the members of this froggy family are all around 1 to 3 inches long and a glassy green shade, that is, save for the patch of skin along the lower surface of their torsos. There, their skin is either transparent or translucent, providing a peek into the frog’s internal organs.
Though the patterning of glass frogs varies, with some species displaying a solid shade on their skin and other species displaying a smattering of tiny spots, the frogs’ transparency makes them masters of camouflage. In fact, their transparency allows them to doze on leaves during the day without being seen.
8. Gray Tree Frog (Species: Dryophytes versicolor)
The gray tree frog is a small species native to the forests of North America, where it consumes insects and insect larvae, as well as mites, spiders and snails. But despite their common name, these 1-to-2-inch frogs are variable in their coloration, armed with the unique ability to change their color at will.
Transforming from beige to gray to green to brown in the matter of seconds, the gray tree frog changes it color to complement its surroundings. But their resting color also alters over time, with froglets tending to display lighter green tones than their adult counterparts, which tend to display darker green tones and grays.
Ultimately, the gray tree frogs’ color changing transformations allows the amphibians to spend more of their time out in the open, lounging on leaves and branches.
9. Red Eyed Tree Frog (Species: Agalychnis callidryas)
An arboreal frog with long limbs and long toes, the red-eyed tree frog is found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Its cuteness comes from its small size, approximately 2 to 3 inches and its striking coloration, including its green back, blue and yellow appendages, orange toes and intense red eyes.
Though the nocturnal frog is not poisonous, it still uses its colors to fend off predators. During the day, the frogs conceal themselves in the tropical forest leaves using their bright green backs. If disturbed, the frogs flash their orange feet and red eyes, surprising predators and enabling their quick escape.
10. Tomato Frog (Species: Dyscophus antongilii)
Reaching around 4 inches and ranging from red to orange, the podgy tomato frog looks a lot like the tender, tasty fruit for which it is named. Yet, the predators of Madagascar know that this nocturnal species isn’t the smartest snack.
In fact, tomato frogs spend most of their nights noshing on small insects and invertebrates. When threatened by predators, they puff up their bodies and produce a thick, sticky substance all across their skin. Acting as a numbing agent, this toxin causes predators to release any frogs that they catch. Not only that, but the substance also discourages predators from pursuing the frogs in the future, temporarily adhering their teeth together.
Read More: How Do Animals Evolve to Be So Colorful?