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Do Frogs Have Lungs Or Gills?

Do Frogs Have Lungs Or Gills

If you’re interested in learning more about frogs, then one area you may want to delve into is their breathing system. You may ask yourself if frogs have lungs or gills. And how they breathe in water and on land.

Do frogs have lungs or gills? Frogs have lungs but no gills. They only have gills as tadpoles, but like other amphibians, they undergo metamorphosis to lose their gills and develop lungs as adults. The lungs are the primary breathing organs for adult frogs, enabling them to breathe on land.

This post shares in-depth details about breathing in frogs and whether they have lungs, gills, or both. We will discuss how these fascinating amphibians breathe, and other related details you need to know.

Do frogs have lungs or gills?

Frogs have lungs. Frogs do not have gills. However, when talking about frogs from the tadpole stage to juvenile and adult frogs, then we can say that frogs have both gills and lungs.

Frog tadpoles are suited for aquatic environments and have external gills that enable them to extract oxygen from water.

Do frogs have lungs or gills

Essentially, tadpoles draw water through their mouth and it passes over the gills where oxygen gets absorbed into the bloodstream. The used water then flows out through the operculum (gills covering).

However, like other amphibians, frog tadpoles undergo metamorphosis and transform into adult frogs. In so doing, they lose their gills.

So, what do the adults use to breathe? The gills are replaced by well-developed lungs that juvenile and adult frogs use for breathing.

Adult frogs have lungs: Following transformation from tadpole to froglets and eventually adult frogs, all frog species develop lungs, which they use as their primary respiratory organ for breathing while on land.

While these lungs may not be as efficient as those of humans or mammals, they help these amphibians respire properly on land.

You may have heard the common myth that aquatic frogs retain their gills. However, this is untrue. Even frog species that spend their entire lives in water have well-developed lungs, which they use for breathing.

Though they use their skin for breathing underwater, they still come to the water surface occasionally to supplement their oxygen intake.

Though lungs are frogs’ primary respiratory organ, they can also respire through other organs like the skin (while underwater or in damp environments) and buccal cavity.

Do frogs ever have gills?

Frogs have gills at some point in their development cycle—i.e. at the tadpole stage. This is because tadpoles are meant to survive in aquatic environments, hence the need for respiration through gills.

Do frogs ever have gills

However, as they continue developing into miniature frogs, their gills are reabsorbed and replaced by a pair of lungs. This helps prepare them for survival on land as most frog species live on land.

Aquatic frogs that live entirely in water also develop lungs as their primary breathing organ. They lose their gills through metamorphosis and develop lungs instead.

What are the functions of frog lungs?

Adult frogs have a pair of lungs that act as their primary respiratory organ. They take the shape of sac-like, ovoid structures and are located within the body cavity. They feature thin-walled tissues with a huge network of tiny blood capillaries.

The key functions of frog lungs include:

  • They take in oxygen: Whenever the frog inhales, air enters into its lungs and the oxygen is diffused across the lungs’ thin walls and into the bloodstream. The result is oxygen-rich blood that’s transported to various body organs and tissues for cellular respiration and energy production.
  • Carbon dioxide removal: The lungs are also responsible for expelling undesired carbon dioxide from the frog’s body. When the frog exhales, the carbon dioxide as a waste in cellular respiration is pushed out of the lungs and into the environment.
  • They regulate gaseous exchange: the lungs also promote an equilibrium between carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the frog’s bloodstream. This is crucial in ensuring the amphibian receives adequate amounts of oxygen while all the carbon dioxide and other waste gases are eliminated.

Overall, while the frog lungs are not well developed compared to those of mammals, they still help them efficiently respire on land.

Which organ do frogs use to breathe?

Frogs in tadpole stage rely on gills for respiration. This is because they entirely live in aquatic environments, hence they need gills to enable them to survive until they reach the mini frog stage.

Adult frogs, however, use lungs as the primary breathing organs. Since these animals are amphibians and most of them will spend more time on land, they use their lungs to breathe air.

Which organ do frogs use to breathe

However, depending on the environment, frogs can also use their skin as a breathing organ. For instance, frogs that are submerged will use their skins for breathing.

Even then, they cannot survive underwater for long and will still need to come to the surface to breathe air with their lungs.

Frogs in damp environments can also use their moist skin for gaseous exchange.

Another alternative breathing organ for frogs is their mouth cavity, which enables them to take in oxygen and expel waste gases through a mechanism known as buccal pumping.

Frogs can use this method when on land and when not completely submerged in water.

How do frogs breathe on land?

Frogs breathe through the lungs as the primary breathing method on land. When they inhale, oxygen passes through the nostrils and into the lungs where it diffuses across the lung walls and into the bloodstream.

During exhalation, carbon dioxide and other waste gases are pushed out of their bodies.

How do frogs breathe on land

Frogs inhabiting humid environments may also use their skin for breathing. One of the requirements for cutaneous respiration is that the frog should be moist to permit gasses to pass through.

A damp environment keeps the frog’s skin moist, thus allowing for this gaseous exchange. Frogs in areas where lung respiration is limited, e.g. when inactive, in environments with low oxygen levels, etc., may also use their skins to breathe on land.

A frog may use their buccal cavity to breathe on land. The buccal cavity has a rich network of blood capillaries and stays moist throughout due to the mucous lining.

When the buccal cavity floor is lowered, air enters and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream via the mucous layer. As the floor of the buccal cavity raises, carbon dioxide is removed from the blood and expelled through nostrils. (Source).

The video below gives you a clear picture of what buccal pumping in frogs looks like.


How do frogs breathe in water?

Frogs breathe via skin when underwater. Skin respiration involves absorbing oxygen from water and directly into the bloodstream while at the same time expelling carbon dioxide into the water.

Frogs cannot use their primary respiratory organ, the lungs, to breathe in water as they can be filled with water, resulting in suffocation and drowning.

How do frogs breathe in water
If you’re curious about the respiratory system and skeletal structure of frogs, you may find our articles on the frog’s skeleton and whether frogs have backbones informative. Our article on the frog’s skeleton provides insights into the unique bone structure and adaptations that support the frog’s movement and survival. Additionally, our article on whether frogs have backbones explores the fascinating anatomy of frogs, including their vertebral column and spinal structure. These articles offer valuable knowledge about the anatomical features of frogs.


Do frogs use gills to breathe?

Frogs do not use gills to breathe because they lose them at the tadpole stage. Instead, they use the lungs as the primary breathing organ.

How does a frog breathe on land and in water?

A frog primarily uses its lungs to breathe on land. However, it relies on its skin to breathe in water, where oxygen diffuses through its permeable skin and into the bloodstream.


Frogs have gills at tadpole stage, which enables them to survive in aquatic environments. However, as they undergo metamorphosis, the gills are absorbed and replaced by lungs, which become their primary respiratory organ. The key functions of lungs of frogs include uptake of oxygen, removal of carbon dioxide from the body, and controlling gaseous exchange.

Besides the lungs, frogs also use their skin and buccal cavity for respiration. The skin breathing mechanism is especially helpful when the frogs are underwater, in damp environments with low oxygen, and during hibernation.

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