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Frogs: Beyond the Pond

Frogs: Beyond the Pond

Jump to it – for frogs’ sake

Frogs: Beyond the Pond is a themed, interactive gallery that immerses visitors in the world of frogs and invites them to "jump in" to find out more about these quirky yet extremely threatened creatures.

The Aquarium joins a number of zoos and aquariums around the world, which have committed to similar displays to raise awareness of the plight of frogs, inform visitors on what they can do to create frog-friendly environments and raise funds for the Amphibian Ark (an international frog breeding programme in zoos and aquariums).

Frog facts

  • Frogs and toads are amphibians. Some frogs and toads live on land and in the water. Others live only on land. They are cold-blooded, like snakes and lizards (which are reptiles). 

  • Frogs and toads have sensitive skin through which they can absorb water and oxygen.  They have to keep their skin moist so that oxygen can pass through, otherwise they suffocate. They can stay underwater for a long time without having to come to the surface to breathe air.

  • Because of their sensitive skins, frogs and toads like clean water and air. If there are no frogs in the water, it is not safe to drink or swim in.

Frog adaptations

  • Frogs have long legs and can leap up to twenty times their body length. A South African frog named Santjie holds the world-record for the longest jump: 33 feet and 5.5. inches, or about 10m. Some frogs have webbed feet to help them swim. Others have sticky suction pads on their toes so they can cling to plants. Some toads have "claws" to help them dig holes in the sand when they hibernate.

  • Some frogs have long, sticky tongues to catch their prey. It takes less than a second for the frog to shoot its tongue out, catch its prey and bring it into its mouth!

  • Frogs and toads can move their eyes in all directions without having to move their heads.

What is the difference between frogs and toads?

Toads have dry, warty skin and short back legs for walking rather than jumping. 

The warty bumps on a toad’s skin helps to camouflage it so it can hide from predators.   

Can I get warts from touching a frog or toad?

Some people believe that you get warts from touching frogs and toads, but this is not true because warts are caused by a virus. Some people are allergic to certain kinds of toads and develop wart-like rashes after touching them.

The big and the small

The micro frog is the smallest frog in the Western Cape and only grows up to around 16mm in length.

The Western leopard toad is the biggest toad in the Western Cape and grows to 140mm in length.

Why are frogs important for humans?

  • They provide us with medicine.

  • They warn us when there is pollution in our water and air.

  • They eat insects, like mosquitoes, and so protect us from some diseases, like malaria.

  • They are beautiful!

What do frogs mean to you?

You may be surprised to discover that frogs have been a part of our lives from ancient times right up to the present day.  They feature in myths and legends, fables and fairy tales and music, art and literature in countries all over the world.

Can you think of any frog stories? Do you have a frog superstition? What do frogs mean to you?

In South Africa frogs are associated with powerful superstitions and beliefs.

  • Frogs and the lightning bird. The Nguni people believe that you should not collect water from bodies of water where  frogs dwell. Frogs are eaten by hammerkop birds, which are known as “lightning birds” or “birds of witches”. The frog's association with this bird make it a harbinger of bad tidings.

  • Cast a spell. In Xhosa tradition it is thought that frogs are used as muthi. If a frog enters your house, it could be carrying a spell/curse, which someone has cast on it to do you harm. Frogs are also closely associated with snakes – the Xhosa people believe that if you see a frog, a snake will appear shortly afterwards.

  • Children of rain. In some of our communities frogs are viewed as God’s children of rain – they believe that the appearance of a frog is a sign of rain. It is believed that killing frogs will result in severe drought.

  • Fertility, birth and resurrection: In ancient Egypt, the frog-headed Hekt was the goddess of birth and fertility and later of resurrection.The Egyptians mummified frogs with their dead.

  • God of water: In Maori mythology, the frog was the god of water and it was believed that killing a frog would cause downpours and floods. A frog in dreams or on one’s path was a warning of floods or very heavy rain.

  • Toad in the moon: The Chinese don’t see a man in the moon – they see a toad in the moon. A lunar eclipse happens when the toad in the moon tries to swallow the moon itself!

  • Frog Atlas: Legends from China and India say the world rests on the back of a giant three-legged frog. If the frog moves, it causes an earthquake.

  • Good luck: Frogs are symbols of good luck in Japan. In Britain it is believed that a frog will bring good luck to the house it enters.

  • Trickster: The people of Ireland believed that frogs were closely related to the leprechaun and capable of playing tricks when least expected.

  • Warts and all People around the world believe that warts develop from touching frogs and toads. This myth probably comes from the fact that many toads have wart-like growths on their skin for camouflage. Some people are allergic to certain kinds of toads and develop wart-like rashes after touching them.