Top Water-Holding Frog Facts!

Water-holding frog (Cyclorana platycephala). Image credit: Tnarg 12345 GFDL v1.2

Top Water-Holding Frog Facts!

Water-holding frog (Cyclorana platycephala). Image credit: Tnarg 12345 GFDL v1.2

Water is something all living things need to survive. So when we go to a place where it’s hot and dry, we make it a point to bring a bottle of water with us. But what about animals? They can’t bring water around with them, can they? Well, most of them can’t but the water-holding frog is actually capable of accomplishing this feat.

Why Is It Called The Water-Holding Frog?

The water-holding frog gets its name from the fact that it has a built-in water bottle. Where? In its bladder. All animals can store water in their bladder which comes out as urine. Water-holding frogs, however, can store the water for a long period of time. Instead of excreting it as urine, the frogs can bring the water back to its mouth and drink it when it is thirsty. Aside from storing water in their bladders, water-holding frogs can also hold water in the pockets of their skin which they absorb when water is scarce.

Water-Holding Frog Adaptations

Hyperolius marmoratus, Painted reed frog in aestivation. Silvery skin with yellow blotches differs from colour of active animal. Image credit: JonRichfield cc3.0

Apart from being able to store water in its body, water-holding frogs have other adaptations to heat.

One is that they spend most of their time under the sand, where it is cooler, digging burrows with their shovel-like feet. Sometimes, when there are long periods of hot, dry weather, they remain in their burrows and undergo a process called aestivation.

What is aestivation? Aestivation is when animals sleep for a long time in order to survive. It is like hibernation but occurs in the summer. Whereas hibernation helps animals preserve their body heat and energy during a time when it is very cold and food is hard to find, aestivation can help prevent animals from feeling hotter. This is especially important for cold-blooded animals like frogs whose temperature depends on their environment. When it is very hot, there is a chance frogs will get very hot, as well, which can kill them, so they aestivate to prevent this from happening.

So how do water-holding frogs aestivate? Well, they don’t just close their eyes and press a button. First, they produce a large amount of mucus – that slimy substance that also comes out of your nose when you have colds – from their skin, which they then form into a cocoon. This stores water and prevents the frog from drying up while it is asleep. When it wakes up at the end of the drought, the frog simply tears up the cocoon or eats it up and comes out of its burrow, usually to breed.

What Does The Water-Holding Frog Look Like?

Water-holding frog (Cyclorana platycephala). Image credit: Tnarg 12345 GFDL v1.2

The scientific name for the water-holding frog is Cyclorana platycephala. ‘Platycephala’ comes from two Greek words – ‘platy’ and ‘cephalos’ which mean ‘flat’ and ‘head’.

This is fitting because the water-holding frog has a broad, flat head. It also has a round body, short legs and completely webbed feet. It can be gray, dark brown or greenish.

Water-holding frogs are small frogs, which can only grow from 1.6 to 2.8 inches long – smaller than a crayon. Like in most frog species, the females are slightly larger than the males. This is because during mating, the male frog hops on the back of the female and she has to be able to support his weight without getting crushed.

Water-Holding Frog Habitat

Cyclorana distribution. Image credit: Tnarg12345 GFDL v1.2

The water-holding frog can only be found in southern Australia. As you’ve probably already guessed, it lives in places where it can be really hot during the dry season, which is usually from April to October. The wet season, on the other hand, happens from November to March, which is usually when water-holding frogs come out to feed and breed.

Water-Holding Frog Diet

Water-holding frogs eat mostly insects and small fish, which they can catch underwater using their strong muscles and their large mouths. They sit and wait for prey and when it passes by, they pounce and trap it inside their mouths, eating it slowly while it is still alive.

Water-Holding Frog Reproduction

Tadpoles by böhringer friedrich cc2.5

Water-holding frogs live alone but come together during the breeding season. After mating, the female lays up to 500 eggs in ponds that have been formed by the rain, attaching them to leaves or spreading them out in a thin film on the water’s surface. After a few weeks, the eggs hatch and the tadpoles emerge, which can grow over 2 inches long. The tadpoles gradually develop and before the wet season is over, they will have become fully grown frogs, ready to survive the dry season.

Importance Of The Water-Holding Frog

Aborigines from north Queensland - circa 1900
Aborigines from north Queensland – circa 1900. Image credit: Aussie~mobs cc2.0

The water-holding frog is an important animal for the Australian Aborigines. They have a hard time finding water during the dry season, too, and when worst comes to worst, they dig out the frogs, squeezing them gently so that some of the water they stored in their bladders comes out of their mouths. The water then goes into the Aborigines’ mouths, quenching their thirst. Afterwards, the frogs are released to go back into their burrows.

Water-Holding Frog Predators

Desert Dingo. Image credit: Paleontour cc2.0

Any larger animal that comes across the water-holding frog can easily have it for a meal. These include snakes, birds, larger frogs, large lizards, crocodiles and dingoes, the wild dogs of Australia. To keep themselves from getting eaten, water-holding frogs quickly escape underground or underwater. They can also produce mucus that makes them slippery.

Is The Water-Holding Frog Endangered?

The water-holding frog is currently classified as a species of Least Concern. This means that it has a large and stable population, even though it is only found in a small corner of the world, and that it is not in any danger of extinction, which is a very good thing, especially since fifteen of Australia’s frogs are already considered endangered.

Water Holding Frogs are featured in these following books:
25 Desert Animals
101 Facts… Desert Animals
25 Strangest Animals in the World!

The YouTube video playlist below contains a video about Water Holding Frogs. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Freaks of Nature: Water Holding Frogs by NationalGeographic
  2. Water Holding Frog (Cyclorana novahollindae) by HitchinHerps
  3. Water holding Frog Litoria platycephala by Japanearthquake9



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