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Amphibian winter survival skills can include 'anti-freeze'

Jess Gonzales Special to The Packet
Shelly Morrison  Submitted photo
When frogs hibernate, they can get all the oxygen they need through their skin.

Shelly Morrison Submitted photo When frogs hibernate, they can get all the oxygen they need through their skin.

Fall is just around the corner. You can feel the air getting crisper and the days getting shorter. Naturally, we put away our summer clothes and take out winter boots, hats, long-sleeve shirts and pants.

To us, this is our way of preparing for the colder weather. Other animals migrate to warmer areas and some hibernate.

The most commonly known animal for hibernating is the bear, but people often overlook smaller creatures and amphibians, such as the frog, who do the same. There are 10 native frogs in Ontario. All of them hibernate during the winter.

Most of our native frog species, unlike the turtle, are not at risk, other than the cricket frog, which is endangered. That being said, it remains important to understand all our native species, their habitats and living environments to prevent future problems.

Because frogs can't hop away and migrate to a warm place like birds do, they are forced to find a different solution for winter survival. According to Amphibians as Pets, by Georg and Lisbeth Zappler, many amphibians will sink down to the muddy bottoms of lakes and ponds and sleep out the winter.

When they prepare to hibernate, they slow down their body functions and less oxygen is needed. When frogs go to hibernate, their skin is very important during the winter weather. Even during warmer weather, the skin of frogs plays a key role in allowing a frog's body to absorb water and gasses. While the frog is hibernating, it is able to get all the oxygen it needs through its skin without returning to the surface for lung breathing.

According to the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, other frogs such as the wood frog spend the winter under the leaf litter in a wooded area. The wood frog is a little different from the rest of the frogs in the area. It has a higher concentrate of sugar in its blood and cells, which acts as a natural "anti-freeze" and allows it to survive very cold temperatures. Up to half of a wood frog's body can freeze without causing any harm to the frog.

Some people find it fascinating how birds can find their way back and forth each year. But the way frogs survive winter is just as cool, if not cooler, than the birds.

The Kids for Turtles office at Tudhope Park is also preparing for hibernation by closing down for the winter. Don't worry, we will still be fully operational from a satellite office. Please send in your inquiries to:

To learn more about hibernation, visit your local library for some fascinating books on how animals survive the cold or you could search it out on the web.

There is also a correction on our article last week about zero-wasters. Credit should go to Sandy Agnew and Kelly Clune for a well-written article.

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