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How Long Can Frogs Hold Their Breath?

As you most likely know already, frogs are amphibious creatures that dwell on land and water. While a few particular frog species can hold their breath for multiple months while hibernating or even breathe water entirely, most frog species can only breathe air and are required to surface somewhat regularly to breathe. That begs the question, how long can such frogs hold their breath?

On average, most frog species are capable of holding their breath while underwater for 4 to 7 hours. This amount of time will vary from species to species, with some frogs only able to hold their breath for a few minutes, while others can hold their breath for months at a time or even breathe under water.

This is pretty amazing. Imagine holding your breath for 4 to 7 hours. Crazy, right? Let’s take a closer look at how frogs can accomplish this stunning feat, along with which species may be able to hold their breath longer or shorter. Keep reading to have all your questions on this topic answered!

How Do Frogs Breathe?

frog swimming under water

To fully understand how frogs can hold their breath for such sustained periods, let’s first examine how they breathe.

Because frogs are amphibians, they can breathe both air and water. Some specialized species of frogs spend their whole lives underwater and have lost the ability to breathe air. These aquatic frogs rely on a set of gills to breathe water, much like tadpoles do before they grow lungs.

A group of frogs that breathe both air and water may be forced to hold their breath or come up to the surface if the water around them is low on oxygen. This can happen if the frog is swimming in stagnant water, like a pond or puddle with little to no water circulation.

So, when there is not enough oxygen present in the water around them, frogs will be required to hold their breath. That’s when having lungs comes in handy. Frogs have specially adapted lungs to be able to hold their breath for long periods of time. Like we stated earlier, they can often hold their breath for 4 to 7 hours at a time.

Frogs can stay underwater for such a long time because they have developed a special kind of breathing called cutaneous breathing. This unique way of breathing allows them to absorb dissolved oxygen through their skin, allowing them to stay underwater for a long time without having to come up for air.

However, this can sometimes be a bad thing. If there is too little oxygen in the water around them, the frog will start to suffocate unless it holds its breath. This can be especially dangerous during long periods of hibernation when having sufficient levels of oxygen is imperative.

Can Frogs Drown?

green frog under water

Many frog species have evolved lungs throughout their evolution, allowing them to breathe air while also breathing water when needed. This is a massive plus for adaptability, but it can also mean trouble.

If a frogs’ lungs fill up with water, they will drown. However, frogs are specially adapted to live in the water, so their chances of drowning are fairly low compared to other animal species.

Many frogs will come up to the water’s surface for more air to prevent themselves from drowning. Even though most frog species do this, some don’t have lungs and only breathe with cutaneous breathing.

One such species like this is the Bornean Flat-Headed frog, which breathes only through its skin. Because of this unique adaptation, it never needs to come up for air and can never drown! But if the oxygen levels in the water around it are too low, it can still suffocate.

Which Species of Frog Can Hold Their Breath the Longest?

wood frog

Many species of frogs are adapted to spend their entire lives underwater without ever needing to surface once.

Some of these frogs include the African Clawed Frog and the Western Clawed Frog, which spend all their time in the water without needing to venture up on long.

While frogs like these spend their whole lives in the water, they still need to surface occasionally to get air. They then will hold their breath for as long as they need to while hunting and mating underwater.

Some frog species will also hibernate through the winter or long droughts, requiring them to stay under the water for long periods of time. When this happens, their respiration will slow down, allowing them to hold their breath for months at a time.

One such frog species is the Wood Frog, which holds its breath through the long winter months until spring. Their respiration becomes so slow that they can hold their breath for this entire time while also being able to survive being frozen. Their blood produces a special anti-freeze solution that will thaw them out in the springtime.

The Siberian wood frog, (Rana amurensis) was facilitated by a unique adaptation, the ability to survive extreme hypoxia — and probably anoxia — in waterbodies during overwintering.

In laboratory experiments the Ramurensis survived for up to 97 days in hermetically sealed containers with water that contained less than 0.2 mg/L oxygen at temperatures of 2–3 °C, retaining the ability to respond to external stimuli.

Nature.com’s Scientific Report

Final Thoughts

Frogs are amazing creatures, able to hold their breath for months at a time in some cases. Most species of frogs, however, can hold their breath for 4 to 7 hours. This is the norm across most frog species.

Some species of frogs have adapted to breathe only through their skin, allowing them to stay underwater their entire lives. Others have evolved to hibernate in freezing water for months at a time without coming up for air once.

The tiny amphibian, the frog, accomplishes these amazing feats. Starting as just a little tadpole with no arms or legs, they grow into a creature adapted perfectly for water and land.

We hope the information we’ve outlined in this article has answered all your questions about how long frogs can hold their breath.

For all other questions about frogs, check out some of our other articles below:

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