Burrowing Frogs


Photo by User: Tnarg 12345 The Australian Water-holding Frog (Litoria platycephala)

The water holding frog is just that, a camel like frog that stores water in its gills, tissues, and its larger bladder. Like all frogs and toads, the Australian Water-Holding Frog can absorb water through its super skin. But, the amounts that this frog can hold are enormous. The frog can live underground for up to two years on the water it has stored! (1)

Living in over 12% of Australia this frog is not endangered. There is a pale green stripe that runs the length of its body. It ranges from grey to with gold and green flecks to green with black splotches. The skin is smooth with some smaller bumps. The toes are fully webbed.

The water-holding frog spends most of its time underwater while it above ground. The mating season and eating period only lasts for about as long as the rains (approximately 3-6 months). Tadpoles are large and gold and like most burrowing frogs, they mature quickly. It takes two years for a female to be able to mate, but when she can she lays over 500 eggs at a time.

After mating and eating and soaking up water throughout their bodies, the frogs perform their burrowing ritual. They back into the mud using their webbed hind feet to dig out room. They can dig up to about three feet under the surface. They slowly squish down into the mud until only their nostrils remain above ground. The frogs are able to breathe oxygen through their skins so that they will not suffocate. They shed their skin and pull it around them in a type of bubble like nest. Here they will aestivate usually for about six to nine months (2) .

Sure, the frogs may have enough water stored in their bodies and can breathe oxygen through the soil, but how can they can they go so long without eating? Aestivation is a type of hibernation by animals that live in hot, dry climates. The frogs bodily processes slow down sharply reducing the rate at which calories burn(3). The Australian Water-holding Frog aestivates to beat the summer heat when it would be in dire need of prey and at a serious risk for dehydration and death.

Other Burrowing Frogs in Australia


Western Australian Turtle Frog (Myobatrachus gouldii)

The turtle frog of Australia might be the most unusual looking frog that is stuck between a frog and a turtle.  It has no shell but is smooth and slimy looking. The arms and legs have developed into short stocky limbs so that they can burrow head first into the soil(4). Only one other frog is known to burrow head first, the Sandhill Frog (5). The turtle frogs diet consists solely of termites. They use their forelimbs for digging into the termite nests.  

Desert Trilling Frog (Neobatrachus centralis)

The Ornate Burrowing Frog and the Trilling Desert Frog also live in arid areas of Australia where they dig underground and aestivate to escape the suns rays (6). The trilling frog is named for its mating call of a low trill trill. They live in the Central Australian Deserts and are camouflaged in brown and greenish splotches. The frogs have a smooth skin and are distinguished from the other species by a pair of baggy pants on their hind legs. They look similar to the pants that horse jockeys wear. In some areas, these frogs are the only living things besides insects that are to be found for miles.


Fun Frog Fact

fun-fact-on-frogsThe Desert Trilling Frog is a tetraploid. This means that is has double the chromosomes of a normal frog.




Toad Trivia

toad trivia-1Q: What is a defining characteristic of the water holding frog?

A: It has a flat head. That must not be very good for holding water!