However, despite their many talents, they are still vulnerable to the effects of gravity, just like the rest of us. Sometimes they fail to stick the landing, hop off a perch to catch a bug or escape a predator, or are accidentally dropped by their caring owners.
While a fall of any distance may seem like a death sentence for such a tiny creature, most frogs are able to survive minor falls with no injury.
How far can frogs fall?
Most frogs can fall 3-5 feet without serious injury. A frog’s ability to avoid falling injury depends on the size, weight, and species of the frog, as well as the fall height, the frog’s readiness, how it lands, and the surface onto which it falls.
If you’re wondering how frogs can survive a fall, what increases a frog’s risk of injury, or what to do if your frog falls, you’ve come to the right place!
We will dive into all of these questions and explain frogs’ incredible adaptations (and limitations) that impact their ability to cope with falling.
How Do Frogs Survive A Fall?
Even a small drop of 4 feet is many times greater than the size of a frog. The last thing we want is for our dear amphibious friends to become hurt or worse, but you have to wonder: How are they able to drop from such heights and hop away unscathed?
There are several reasons why frogs are able to survive falls, and they relate to the nature of the fall and the build of the frog itself.
With some exceptions, most frogs are pretty tiny! They don’t have very much mass. While we all experience gravity, the mass of an object affects the amount of gravitational force that an object experiences.
The more mass an object has, the greater the force propelling its descent. If a pumpkin toadlet, a human, and a cow all fell from the same height, you will see varying degrees of injury. The toadlet might be okay, the human may have some broken bones, and the cow may have more severe injuries.
Frogs’ relatively small mass results in them having a low terminal velocity, which is the fastest speed an object is capable of reaching during freefall.
This means that, when a small frog finds itself plummeting toward Earth, it has a shot at survival.
Frogs have a large surface area relative to their mass. The more surface area an object has during freefall, the greater the air resistance. Air resistance, in simple terms, is a special kind of friction that occurs between the air and an object moving through it.
Air resistance helps to slow the descent of a falling object, like a frog.
Some frogs have special adaptations and behaviors that enable them to increase their air resistance. A study performed by students at Depauw University examined the behaviors of falling frogs. They discovered that arboreal frogs display “parachuting behavior.”
Parachuting involves a frog spreading out its limbs and toes to increase its surface area, and therefore increase its air resistance. It is highly unlikely that frogs are thinking about this, of course. The study found that arboreal frogs are better at parachuting than terrestrial frogs.
Check out the video of a frog parachuting below!
Some frogs have taken parachuting to the extreme. The Chinese gliding frog, for example, has extra webbing between its toes that enables it to not only slow its descent but glide. Thanks to this special adaptation, the Chinese gliding frog is able to survive a fall from almost any height – and use it to get to someplace new!
Ability To Right Itself Mid-Air
A frog’s survival after a fall not only depends on the speed with which it falls but also on how it lands. Frogs prefer to land belly-down, where they can potentially splay out their limbs to help break their fall. Landing on their back is an invitation for injury to the frog’s skull or spine.
To land right-side up, some tree frogs have developed the ability to rapidly move their hind legs in a way that creates the momentum needed to twist their body into the correct orientation, kind of like a cat!
Unfortunately, not all frogs have the ability to correct their course mid-flight. Check out the truly inspiring video below of frogs in the genus Brachycephalus, or pumpkin toadlets.
These frogs are so tiny, that their inner ears cannot function! They are unable to maintain their balance in the air, and usually land on their backs. However, because they are so incredibly small, they do not sustain damage.
What Increases The Risk Of Falls For Frogs?
While most frogs can safely fall short distances, there are parameters other than distance that increase the risk of injury after a fall. When answering the question “How far can frogs fall?” you have to consider the following factors.
As we discussed earlier, objects with greater mass experience a stronger gravitational force. A bigger frog will hit the ground harder than a smaller frog falling from the same distance because it experiences gravity differently.
Large frogs are more likely to be injured by a fall than smaller ones.
As you can imagine, harder surfaces pose a greater risk than softer ones. Landing on cement or rock is more likely to injure a frog than carpeting or a forest floor well-padded with leaves.
However, landing on a hard surface isn’t a death sentence. Frogs are surprisingly resilient, and as long as the drop was not too far, and the frog landed correctly, it will likely be okay.
While I was transferring a brand-new shipment of African dwarf frogs to their tank at the pet store where I work, the tiny frogs decided that it would be a good idea to jump out of the net and onto the concrete floor from waist height. After finally being placed into their tank, all the frogs were behaving normally – the fall didn’t seem to impact them at all!
Frogs are surprisingly great aerial acrobats, and many frogs – especially tree frogs – are great at righting themselves in mid-air. However, these attempts are not always successful. Frogs sometimes land on their backs, sides, or heads.
When a frog lands incorrectly, it is more likely to experience broken bones, head trauma, or a spinal injury.
Type Of Frog
Well adapted to living in high places, tree frogs are the best at falling. In the Depauw University study cited earlier, treefrogs were able to slow their descent significantly more than toads and other terrestrial frogs of a similar size.
Even when the frogs were chilled, they were still able to exhibit parachuting behavior and fling out their arms.
If a frog is not adapted to life at high elevations, it may not have the skills or characteristics necessary to reduce its chances of injury after a fall. In the experiment by Depauw students, toads fell significantly faster than tree frogs, even when they were fully warm and awake.
Healthy frogs stand a pretty good chance against minor falls. However, some diseases can cause frogs’ bones to be brittle, increasing the likelihood of a fracture.
Metabolic bone disease is caused by insufficient calcium in the diets of reptiles and amphibians, and it can lead to an increased risk of bone fractures or deformities. Metabolic bone disease, MBD, results from too little calcium or too much phosphorus. Crickets, a popular staple in pet frogs’ diets, are naturally high in phosphorus. To prevent MBD, dust your frog’s food with a calcium supplement (containing D3) two or three times a week.
Inadequate lighting can also cause MBD. UVB lighting boosts the production of vitamin D3, which frogs need to absorb calcium. All reptiles and amphibians benefit from some amount of UVB, although the amount varies by species. Consult your veterinarian about your pet’s lighting and dietary requirements to reduce your frog’s chances of developing MBD and avoidable fractures!
Potential Injuries From Falling
Frogs are resilient little creatures, and they will likely be just fine after a minor tumble. However, sometimes injuries can result if the frog lands incorrectly or on a hard surface, or it falls from too great of a height. Let’s discuss some of the injuries that frogs can sustain in the unfortunate event of a bad fall.
A broken bone is perhaps the easiest injury to identify. If a limb is twisted at an unnatural angle, a fracture is likely.
Broken bones are also characterized by swelling or disuse. If you notice any of these signs after your frog has fallen, take it to a veterinarian. For small frogs, the veterinarian may allow the injury to heal naturally. Larger frogs may require a splint or surgery.
Regardless of the frog’s size, a vet will be able to determine the best course of action for your little friend.
Sometimes, a frog may land incorrectly and hit its head. While frogs are well-adapted to deal with minor bumps on the head, a serious collision can cause problems!
Symptoms of head trauma in frogs include lethargy, delayed reflexes, and, in rare cases, seizures. If you suspect your frog may have experienced head trauma or a concussion, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Other Internal Injuries
If a frog hits the ground really hard, it may experience some other internal injury. If you notice bruising on the skin or blood coming from any of your frog’s orifices, it may mean that it is bleeding internally.
This is a serious condition. As with the other injuries we have mentioned, you should take your frog to the vet if you suspect internal injury after the fall.
What To Do If Your Frog Jumps Out Of Your Hand
Frogs jump, and accidents happen! Even with the most careful care, it is likely that your frog will make a desperate leap from your hand at some point or another. Let’s talk about what to do if this happens, and how to avoid it in the future.
1. Remain Calm
Your beloved pet has just fallen to the floor. It may be stunned by what just happened and is motionless. If this happens, don’t panic! Your frog has just learned that its actions have consequences and is trying to process its new environment.
To avoid scaring your frog further, keep your movements nice and slow.
2. Secure The Frog
Gently pick up your frog and return it to its habitat. If the great escape occurred while you were cleaning its cage, place your frog in another secure container. If your frog is exceptionally wiggly or you are afraid of dropping it again, you can try to gently scoop or herd the frog into a cup or container for transport.
If your frog hops away from you before you can capture it, quickly secure the exits or other free-roaming pets to reduce the chances of your frog getting lost in your home or other harm befalling it.
3. Observe The Frog
Once you have acquired the frog, closely observe it over the next few days.
Note any changes in its behavior. Is it eating and moving around as normal? How is its appetite? Is it favoring any of its limbs?
If you notice anything amiss, contact your veterinarian.
4. Prevent It From Happening Again
Frog falls are scary for everyone involved! To prevent it from happening in the future, review proper frog-handling techniques.
The video below explains ways of capturing and holding both big and small toads and frogs. Check it out!
While they can survive minor falls, frogs are still delicate creatures. It is crucial to be gentle when handling frogs, as we can easily squish them.
Even with the most careful handling, your frog may still jump from your hand. To minimize your frog’s risk of injury, don’t hold your frog too high above the ground.
Also, be aware of the surface you hold your frog over. Soft surfaces, like carpets or cushions, are safer than a hard floor!
If you were wondering, “How far can frogs fall?” hopefully you have gained some insight! Most frogs can survive minor falls of up to about 5 feet. After that, the risk of injury becomes greater.
A frog’s risk of injury from a fall greatly depends on its size and species, as well as its ability to right itself or slow its descent. Tree frogs tend to be “better” at falling than other species, and small frogs do not land as hard as larger frogs.
Always take care when handling your froggy friend. While they are incredibly resilient and powerful, they can still get hurt!
If you drop your frog, it is probably a bit dazed, but otherwise unharmed. If you notice bruising, swelling, or a change in behavior, consult your veterinarian.