The Unique Lives of Frogs

Did you know?

  • The word amphibian is derived from the Greek words amphi, meaning “both”, and bios, meaning “life.”
  • Frogs are the most numerous and widely distributed of living amphibians.

Globally, about 30% of amphibian species, including frogs, salamanders, and newts, are at risk of extinction. Several biological factors make amphibians more sensitive to environmental disruptions than other species, including their unique lifecycle stages, which rely on both land and water ecosystems, their skin, which is a sensitive respiratory organ, and their central position in food webs.

Leading threats to frogs include habitat loss, disease, invasive species, and pollution. Scientists predict that climate change will make these threats more severe through decreased water availability, higher temperatures, the spread of diseases, altered timing of seasons, and increases in extreme weather events, sea levels, and storm surges.

Yellow-legged frogs in the Sierra Nevada provide a good example of how climate change increases the severity of threats. Most of the frogs' habitat in the Sierra Nevada is protected by national parks and wilderness areas, yet they have disappeared from more than 90% of their historic range over the last several decades. Leading factors for the decline include introduced predatory trout, disease, and air pollution. Climate change also threatens the frogs' habitat through decreases in snowpack and summer rainfall, which can lead to the drying of shallow ponds where most Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frogs breed and live during their larval development. Understanding how the threats of climate change are increasing the negative impacts of predation and spread of disease is important for developing a conservation strategy to protect this unique species.

What You Can Do:

  • In addition to the climate change threats they face, frogs are very sensistive to water pollution because their skin allows water and air to pass directly into their bodies. Lend a hand to your amphibian neighbors by taking simple steps to protect water quality in the ponds, streams, and rivers where you live.