Do you like frogs? Many kids love to see these tiny creatures hopping around the backyard or a local pond. They’re even fun to catch and keep as a pet. One of the most interesting things about frogs, though, is how they begin their lives.

A mother frog doesn’t give birth to a live baby frog that looks like a miniature version of a regular frog. Instead, she lays eggs that — if they’re lucky — may one day turn into a frog.

Like caterpillars that become beautiful butterflies, frog eggs undergo a similar metamorphosis. Eggs that hatch in the water transform from aquatic tadpoles into air-breathing frogs that can live on land.

Tadpoles are sometimes known by other names, such as pollywogs, porwigles or pinkwinks. The word “tadpole” comes from the Middle English word taddepol, which is made up of the words tadde (“toad”) and pol (“head”).

After hatching from their eggs, tadpoles stay hidden for a while until their gills and muscles begin to grow. Early on, they’re very fragile creatures.

Over time, tadpoles learn to swim and breathe through their gills. Their chubby bodies and long tails don’t look anything like the frogs they will eventually become, though.

As youngsters, tadpoles scrape algae from plants and rocks. As they grow and get older, their gills start to recede into their bodies. Legs develop first, followed by arms. Their tails also begin to shrink and they start to eat dead insects and plants in addition to algae.

When their lungs develop fully, tadpoles can leave the water and live on land as a new frog. New frogs — sometimes called froglets — may have a stubby tail for a little while, but it eventually disappears.

So how long does this process take? Scientists estimate the total transformation from tadpole to frog takes approximately 12-16 weeks most of the time. However, in cold places or at high altitudes, the tadpole to frog metamorphosis can take an entire winter.

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    • Thanks for sharing your comment today, Sarah! We are glad you enjoyed WONDERing about tadpoles with us! We bet you can do some more WONDERing of your own to find out where they hide! :-)

      We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be, but we bet you’ll recognize this famous figure! :)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Thanks for all the frog information. We really enjoyed learning about them today.

    We think tomorrow will be about Henry Ford or maybe even Rosie the Riveter.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders

    • We’re glad to hear it, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s 4th grade class! We’re happy that you hopped over to Wonderopolis today! :) We are very excited for tomorrow’s Wonder… we think you’re in the right factory! :)

  2. We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Willy Wonka, chocolate, different types of candies, Charlie and the Chocolate factory, how Reese’s Pieces are made, or how chocolate is made.

    It’s possible we are now a little bit hungry for more Wondering! :)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We have learned so much about tadpoles. We never knew that their tails and gills disappear or that they have to grow their lungs so they can breathe air on the land. That’s so cool!

    Thank you very much,
    Makenzie, Scott and Austin

    • HOORAY, we’re glad that our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Nolan’s 5th grade are WONDERing with us! Thanks Makenzie, Scott, and Austin, for sharing your very cool Wonder comment with us! Tadpoles are super fun to learn about; thanks for sharing what you learned today! :)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We learned a lot from the video today. We think tomorrow will be about Henry Ford or Willie Wonka.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • That’s great news, Wonder Friends from Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class! We are glad you hopped over to Wonderopolis today– thanks for joining us! Your guesses are great– we bet you’ll recognize this icon tomorrow! :)

  5. We think that tomorrow’s Wonder will be about Molly the Riveter and the government’s campaign to get women to work in factories during WWII. Maybe it will be about the frindle making company Bic, the wooden glasses company from Oregon, Willie Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, IBM building a smarter planet, or oompa loompas.

    • What a great guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder, Mrs. Ski’s PM Class! Virtual high fives all around! :) We are glad you shared so many great ideas with us– so many factories to choose from, too! We’ve got the oompa loompa song stuck in our heads now… :)

    • How WONDERful, Wonder Friend! We’re thrilled to hear that you love frogs as much as we do! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

    • We’re so glad that you enjoyed our frog-tastic Wonder, Maria! Thanks for joining us as we Wonder about science today! WOHOO! :)

  6. Wow I read in 7th Grade and I know about the tadpoles but seeing them in action seems really cool. 😛
    I hope I learn more from this site ( I just found it ) 😀

  7. I liked that when I watched the video I could tell what he was doing with out using the words to help me figure out what happens.

  8. Dear wonderopolis,
    That is very cool. I thought they only eat algea and other things. I thought they go through 6 sessions of a life not 4. I think you should wonder if kangaroos punch.

    • Hi there, Mrs. Stemmet’s Class! We’re glad you’ve been WONDERing about tadpoles today! We appreciate all the information you have shared, too! We are glad you learned that tadpoles eat algae and sometimes, as they grow, other plants and insects! Thanks for sharing your Wonder idea with us too! Have a SUPER day! :)

  9. Tadpoles are amazing creatures. Then what happens if the tadpoles were in the open? Will they get eaten by fish or other creatures? Wonderopolis is the best website I have ever been to. P.S. What about poison frog egg or tadpoles?

    • Hi there, Joseph! Tadpoles are really fun to Wonder about, and we’re glad you agree! Tadpoles try to protect themselves in order to avoid predators, so they can grow into frogs! We’re so very glad you have stopped by to Wonder with us, and we hope to see you soon! :)

  10. Man do I love frogs. Do you like frogs? My favorite frog is the Red Eyed Tree Frog. What is yours? Frogs are so cute. This is Cool5 signing out. See you. :)

    • Great work, Wonder Friend Aidan! We are so glad you told us all about the life cycle of a tadpole growing into a frog! We Wonder if your classroom has a class pet or plant? Do you have any pets of your own? It’s very cool to see how an animal or plant grows! :)

  11. Why do the frogs transform?
    Why do frogs have to be tadpoles?
    Why do tadpoles have tales when they are little?
    How many eggs does the mother frog lay?
    How long do frogs live?
    How long does it take for an egg to hatch into a tadpole?
    Why do the tadpoles have to be in water?
    How come there are different kinds of frogs (poisonous and nonpoisonous)?
    How many frogs die in a year?
    How long does it take for a tadpole to turn it into a frog?
    Do frogs give humans warts?

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a tadpole?
  • What are some common tadpole nicknames?
  • How long does it take for a tadpole to transform into a frog?

Wonder Gallery

TadpoleVimeo Video

Try It Out

Are you fascinated by tadpoles and how they become frogs? To help you remember how eggs turn into tadpoles that turn into frogs, create this fun Frog Life Cycle Craft. Feel free to make more than one and share them with your friends!

Would you believe that some frogs lay eggs in trees to give their eggs a better chance of surviving? It’s true! Learn more by watching this amazing National Geographic Tadpoles video.

Still Wondering

In ReadWriteThink’s Internet Quest: Frogs and Toads! student interactive, children use the Internet to research and record information about frogs and toads.

Wonder What’s Next?

Join us in Wonderopolis tomorrow for a look at a famous factory worker!

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