Leap Day the Frog Way

We’re happy to feature this guest post by Meghan Bartels from the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project in celebration of leaping frogs. Don’t miss the wonderful song below by Alex Culbreth.

The real purpose of leap day may be to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons, but here at the Panama Amphibian Conservation and Rescue Project, we’d like to believe the day is designed to honor our favorite leapers. To celebrate, we’ve put together some fun facts about frog leaping.

Frog Leaping courtesy Brian Gratwicke

Frog Leaping courtesy Brian Gratwicke & Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

  • Not all frogs can leap, or even hop. The desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) has legs that are too short to hop. Instead, it walks.
  • Male frogs of the genus Pipa are known to defend their territory by jumping at and then wrestling other males.
  • The New Guinea bush frog (Asterophrys turpicola) takes jump attacks one step further: before it jumps at a strange frog, it inflates itself and shows off its blue tongue.
  • Stumpffia tridactyla are normally slow-moving critters, but when they’re startled they can abruptly jump up to 8 inches. That doesn’t sound very far, but these little guys are less than half an inch long!
  • The Fuji tree frog (Platymantis vitiensis) may be the leaping stuntman of the frog world. Each time it leaps, it twists in the air—sometimes even 180 degrees—to throw predators off its trail.
  • The Larut torrent frog (Amolops larutensis) gets its name from a nifty leaping trick: it can jump into a fast-moving stream and back to its usual perch, the underside of a rock, without being affected by the current.
  • Similarly, the parachuting red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis saltator) gets its name because it speeds to mating opportunities by jumping from trees with finger-and toe-webbing spread wide.
  • The record for longest jump by an American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) recorded in a scientific paper is a little over 4 feet. But scientists who went to the Calaveras County Fair, which Mark Twain’s short story made famous for frog jumping, found that more than half the competitors bested that record—and one jumped more than 7 feet in one leap!
  • The Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t include any frogs for their leaping ability. But it does track human performance in frog jumping (jumping while holding one’s toes). There are records listed for the longest frog jump and the fastest frog jumping over 10 and 100 meters.


In honor of leap day celebrations being coordinated globally by Amphibian Ark, the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project made this video for a frog song written by Alex Culbreth.


How far can a frog jump?

This morning at the library I found a recently published book called FROGS: The Animal Answer Guide by herpetologists Mike Dorcas and Whit Gibbons (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). The book is structured in the form of questions and answers, helping readers gain insight into amphibians and raising awareness about the importance of frogs and toads in our natural world.

FROGS: The Animal Answer Guide by Mike Dorcas and Whit Gibbons

Here are some questions posed in the book:

Do frogs sleep?

What color are a frog’s eyes?

How do some frogs stick to walls?

Why should people care for frogs?

What roles do frogs play in native cultures?

Do frogs have teeth?

The answers are easy to read and non-technical. While the book wasn’t shelved in the children’s room, it would be fine for kids ages 10 and up.

So here’s one question from the book:

How far can a frog jump?

Many frogs can jump at least 30 times their body length, and some smaller species of tree frogs can jump 50 times their length. This is the human equivalent of jumping the length of a football field without a running start. Some frogs in the genus Rhacophorus, flying or gliding frogs of Asia, can go even longer distances. These frogs have webbed toes that they use as parachutes to slow their fall and glide from one tree to the next, or to the ground. Jumping helps frogs avoid predators; the skeletons of some species are modified to absorb the shock when they land. Not all frogs are long jumpers. The narrowmouth toads of the southeast and or the Mexican burrowing toad can only hop a few inches.