The frogs of winter. October 8, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: frog hibernation, frogs, frogs in winter, why don't frogs freeze in winter
Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have been enjoying the company of two frogs who took up residence in our deck’s half-barrel water garden this spring. They’ve stayed with us all season, and their occasional commentary and antics have kept us amused when we sit out on the deck every dry evening to relax and watch the sunset with our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh.
But now, with the weather cooling rapidly and the leaves falling, we’ve become worried about them. After all, if the winter is cold enough, that water garden can freeze almost to the bottom. (We move the water plants to a similar half-barrel in our greenhouse to overwinter.) Would our frogs have the good sense to head to our little stream, Hawk Run, which runs beneath our deck bridge, and burrow into the mud bank for their winter hibernation?
Our friend Ben felt that research was in order, so I turned to my good friend Google, which revealed some truly amazing facts about the winter habits of frogs. First, while they do hibernate, they don’t burrow into the mud to sleep the winter away. Instead, they just remain suspended on the pond or stream floor.
But what if the water freezes? Well, of course the frogs freeze with it. Only they don’t, or not exactly. According to frog expert Rick Emmer, writing in Scientific American, frogs come with their own antifreeze, which keeps them from dying even if they freeze.
“True enough, ice crystals form in such places as the body cavity and bladder and under the skin, but a high concentration of glucose in the frog’s vital organs prevents freezing,” he writes. “A partially frozen frog will stop breathing, and its heart will stop beating. It will appear quite dead. But when the [water] warms up above freezing, the frog’s frozen portions will thaw, and its heart and lungs resume activity…”
Yowie kazowie! That explains why frogs are found as far north as the Arctic Circle. Let’s hope it’s enough to protect our resident frogs if they decide to hibernate in our water garden this winter. We’d be very happy to see them again next spring!