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As of now, the answer to this question is unknown. This is because no scientific studies have been done to find out how long frogs can stay underwater. However, what is known is that most frogs can stay underwater for at least a couple of minutes.
This is because most frogs have the ability to breathe through their thin skins when in the mud or underwater. The exact amount of time a frog can stay underwater is determined by its species and its level of activity underwater.
In theory, since frogs can breathe underwater, they should be able to stay underwater indefinitely. However, frogs cannot stay underwater indefinitely because several factors affect their ability to breathe underwater. The factors that affect their ability to breathe underwater are the same factors that affect the ability of all amphibians to breathe underwater.
How Frogs/ Amphibians Breathe
To understand how long frogs can stay underwater, it is important to understand how they breathe. Essentially, frogs breathe just like all other amphibians.
So how do amphibians, in general, breathe? They breathe through their lungs and their skin. Most amphibians including frogs have tiny nostrils that they use to draw in oxygen to breathe through their lungs and to expel carbon dioxide. This is their primary way of breathing.
Their secondary way of breathing is through the skin. Most amphibians have got thin and extremely permeable skins. Just beneath their skins, they’ve got very many blood vessels. The permeability of their skin and the presence of many blood vessels makes the exchange of gasses between amphibians and water possible.
The exchange of gasses normally involves amphibians giving off carbon dioxide to water via their skin and absorbing dissolved oxygen from water.
While the above process seems straightforward, it is not. This is because dissolved oxygen is usually not available in mud and many water bodies. This is one of the things that largely determines how long amphibians and frogs, in specific, can stay underwater. Because if there is little oxygen to breathe underwater, they will feel suffocated and they will definitely surface.
How Frogs Breathe Underwater
As explained above, frogs, like other amphibians, can breathe underwater. They can do it because they have highly permeable skins that can absorb oxygen from water.
Most frog species are so good at absorbing oxygen their highly-permeable skins that they can do it even when there is not a lot of dissolved oxygen in water. However, when they deplete dissolved oxygen and there is no more oxygen entering water, they have to surface and breathe through their nostrils and lungs.
To survive underwater in waters with low oxygen concentration, frogs usually reduce their body functions, movements, and metabolic rates. Some frogs can do this better than others, therefore, they can survive longer underwater. However, as mentioned above, when the oxygen becomes too little in water and there is no more oxygen being dissolved, most frogs will surface to absorb oxygen through their lungs.
Factors that Affect How Long Frogs Can Stay Underwater
The number one factor affecting how long frogs can stay underwater is the oxygen level. When the oxygen level in water is low, frogs cannot stay submerged for long. This is because they will not be able to breathe enough of the scarce oxygen in the water through their skin. And when they cannot get enough oxygen through their skin, they almost always surface immediately to breathe through their lungs.
Since most frogs like living near stagnant waters, they usually do not stay long in the stagnant waters. This is because stagnant waters do not dissolve a lot of oxygen since their surfaces are usually relatively still. Therefore, it is fair to say that the single biggest reason why frogs do not stay underwater for long, is the lack of enough oxygen in the stagnant waters where they like living.
The second biggest factor affecting how long frogs can stay underwater is temperature. Warm weather increases the rate of metabolism in frogs, which in turn increases their demand for oxygen. In contrast, cold weather decreases the rate of metabolism in frogs, which in turn decreases their demand for oxygen.
The above means that frogs can stay underwater for long in cold weather due to their decreased or lower demand for oxygen in such weather. The reason why is that they can simply meet the lower demand for oxygen by breathing through their skin. They do not need to surface and breathe through their lungs.
Another factor affecting how long frogs can stay underwater is their age. Tadpoles, as young frogs are known, have gills on them. This means that they can breathe underwater just like fish. Hence they can stay for a very long time underwater unlike adult or older frogs that can only breathe via their skins and their lungs.
Lastly, physiological needs also affect how long frogs can stay underwater. Frogs need to eat and to mate. So they cannot stay indefinitely underwater if they do not find food underwater. They also cannot stay for a long time underwater especially when it is their mating season.
So Exactly How Long Can Frogs Stay Underwater?
Well, as mentioned in the intro, no study has been done to find out how long frogs can stay underwater. So it is difficult to say the exact number of minutes or hours. However, based on the factors discussed in the section above and the other things you have learned in this post, I am sure you can now guess how long frogs can stay underwater.
The factors discussed in the section above determine how long frogs can stay underwater. In addition to the factors, perhaps the one thing that significantly affects how long a frog can stay underwater is the thickness of its skin membrane. Frogs with thin skin membranes can breathe better underwater than frogs with thick skin membranes. Therefore, they can stay longer underwater than their thick-skinned cousins.
In summary, the better the underwater breathing capability (the thinner the skin membrane), the longer a frog can stay underwater.
Frequently Asked Questions about Frogs
What Is A Tadpole?
A tadpole is an immature frog that has hatched from a frog egg. Tadpoles exclusively stay underwater. What helps them to stay underwater is the fact that they have gills just like fish. The gills help them to breathe underwater.
As time goes by, tadpoles undergo a serious transformation (metamorphosis) to become mature or adult frogs. The changes include the development of the lungs and the disappearance of gills.
Mature frogs can only breathe via their lungs and their skins.
What Food Do Frogs Eat?
Adult frogs mainly eat insects when in their natural environment. They also eat algae on rock surfaces and leaves. Adult frogs also eat fish and small frogs.
If you have a pet frog, you can buy for it live food or specially made frog food from your local pet store or from Amazon.
What Animals Can Eat Frogs?
Adult frogs can eat small frogs and tadpoles. So frogs can eat frogs. Frogs can also be eaten by herons, raccoons, and snakes.
What Is The Difference Between Toads And Frogs?
Toads and frogs are closely related. For this reason, it is very difficult for someone inexperienced to tell the difference between a frog and a toad. However, there are two main differences between toads and frogs. Toads have rough and dry skin and don’t leap significantly into the air because of their short legs, while frogs have smooth and moist skin and long legs for leaping.
A frog can stay almost indefinitely underwater because it can breathe through its skin. However, its underwater breathing capability and several other factors such as temperature and the level of oxygen in water affect how long it can stay underwater.
So the answer to how long can frogs stay underwater is that it can be anything from several minutes to hours based on the frog species, the condition underwater, and several other factors. I hope this answer is helpful to you even though it is not exact.