Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ask the Frog Staff | What do frogs do in the winter?

'What do frogs do in the winter?'
"Was visiting yesterday and strolled past both the "Frog Baby" pond and the lily pond.  Where do the frogs go in the winter?  Thank you." 

Christine C.

Thank you for your question! The answer to which I find particularly fascinating.

Frogs do several different things to handle freezing temperatures in the winter.

Those bullfrogs in the Garden ponds ... do just what they and other frogs do in the winter which is brumate. Brumation is like hibernation, only metabolically it is a much different process utilized by cold blooded animals. Leopard frogs and Green frogs are other examples of frogs that brumate. They simply burrow, dig or hide deep enough below the frost line where they won't actually be exposed to freezing (or below) temperatures.

Other frogs (at least up and down the East Coast) actually posses the biological equivalent of antifreeze in their cells so freezing temperatures aren't as big of an obstacle to them (eg: Spring Peepers) While still other native Georgian frogs (and this is my favorite) actually freeze solid and thaw in the spring! In Massachusetts, where I lived for many years, the frog community is composed of many similar species as Georgia, and I have found dozens of frozen wood frogs and grey tree frogs ... which will simply 'defrost' in the spring and go about their business. Both of those species also occur in Georgia, but I am not sure how differently they behave here with the much milder winter temperatures.
Wood frogs are one species that can tolerate freezing solid every year
Lastly, I gave a lecture a few years ago in an Environmental Physiology class regarding Cold Hardiness ... or the ability for cold blooded animals to handle freezing temperatures, and I have included a link to the PowerPoint presentation below (if you are interested) it included frogs but turtles, in particular also do some fascinating things in the winter like supercool ... or allow their body temperature to go BELOW freezing yet somehow they don't freeze ... at that point they are 'supercooled'

Here is the link:


I hope that wasn't too much information. You clearly asked a question that I find fascinating!