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September Snub-Noses

9-1-14  juvenile amphibians IMG_5078Frogs and toads that hatched from eggs laid this past spring are now two to four months old, and are growing rapidly. Like snakes, frogs and toads shed their skin as they grow — unlike snakes, they eat their skin. Periodically toads and frogs stretch their bodies and then pull their loosened skin off in one piece, much like we pull off a sweater. Using their feet, they then stuff their skin under their tongue and swallow it. When frogs and toads are young and growing fast, they usually shed their skin more often than when they are older and their growth slows down. Not only is their skin a valuable source of nutrients and protein, but if it’s eaten, there is no sign left behind for predators to find.

Most young toads and frogs, with the exception of the Gray Treefrog, look like miniature adults. (Gray Treefrogs are emerald green in their youth, unlike the mottled gray/green adults they will become.) There is one characteristic at this stage that they don’t share with their elders, however, and that is their snub noses. If you’re wondering if the frog or toad you saw is a small adult or a youngster, take a closer look at its nose! If it’s unusually short and blunt, there’s a bit of growing left to do.

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15 responses

  1. Marilyn

    Whoa! I had no idea about the skin-shedding. Nor the pug-nose – something to look for. Thanks!

    September 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm


    That info is so cool! Thanks, Judi

    September 1, 2014 at 1:10 pm

  3. Brinna Sands

    Frank Sands

    Sent from my iPad


    September 1, 2014 at 1:53 pm

  4. Kathie Fiveash

    Wow! I never knew any of this before! Thank you!

    September 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm

  5. dellwvt

    Interesting! Thanks once again for some fascinating new information, Mary! And I have a question, only obliquely related to this. My apartment is above the woodshed in a big old farmhouse. Last night as I walked up the stairs, I saw a small brown frog on the step in front of me. I regret that I didn’t take the time to observe it more closely, but I wanted to catch it and return it to a (hopefully) safe spot outside. On my first attempt, it made a huge leap over my hand, but on the second try, I caught it. Once in my hand, it seemed to relax and wasn’t trying to escape – perhaps it liked the warmth? Anyhow, I carried it out and across the yard to the edge, where there are shrubs and some conifers, and set it down. I’m wondering what it was. The lighting was pretty dim. It seemed a peeper size (but I have never actually seen a peeper!), with very smooth, medium-brown skin. I didn’t note an “X” or any other markings on its back. And I’m afraid I didn’t notice if it had a snub-nose! What do you think?

    September 1, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    • Hard to say, without any field marks to go on…probably a young wood frog or a (young or adult, hard to say without knowing the size) spring peeper, would be my guess. Wood frogs definitely have a darker brown mask through their eyes, and their skin is a medium brown with few, if any, markings. The “x” on peepers is not always there nor is it always distinctive…Did you happen to notice if each toe ended with a round disc? That would make it a peeper (or gray treefrog, but you would have noticed the mottling on an adult treefrog). I’ve found adults and young of both wood frogs and peepers recently. If there were truly no markings on its back, I would bet it was a young wood frog. (An adult peeper is about an inch long,) Hope this helps!

      September 1, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      • dellwvt

        Thanks for all this information, Mary. I’m tending toward young wood frog, from all you offered. I think it was longer than an inch, and it definitely did not have markings on its back. I wonder what brought it so deeply into our woodshed, and up about 10 steps. It certainly didn’t seem like a hospitable environment to me, but . . . what do I know?

        September 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

  6. Laura Andrews

    Another great post! Mary, I have a close-up photo of a daddy long legs spider doing something strange. May I send it? And where to? Laura A.

    September 1, 2014 at 8:49 pm

  7. Mary, I’ve been hearing a peeping periodically lately, I’m guessing a toad? Why are they peeping now at this time of year?

    September 2, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    • It’s spring peepers, Eliza. In the fall, individuals start peeping now and then. It’s called the “fall echo.” One theory is that the temperature is similar to that in the spring, and that gets the testosterone going, but I’m not sure anyone has confirmed this.

      September 2, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      • Thanks, I knew you’d know the answer! 🙂

        September 3, 2014 at 12:56 am

  8. viola

    I never had known this before. How amazing, as is so much of what happens in nature.

    September 2, 2014 at 9:31 pm

  9. Mary Douglass

    I was lucky enough to see a southern toad shedding its skin once, and it was very much as you described. First the toad seemed to “sweat” so that it became moist all over, then it scraped the skin forward using the front feet like little hands. Because of the moisture, the shed skin seemed kind of gelatinous, not dry like a snake or lizard’s. It used its hands to stuff the skin into either corner of its mouth. After shedding, its colors were nice and bright. I was just a child when I shared this amazing experience with my favorite Aunt in her back yard in Daytona Beach!

    September 3, 2014 at 2:39 am

    • Wonderful description (and experience), Mary!

      September 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm

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