On his last visit to our garden pond, Anthony, a precocious young neighbor, startled a green frog and it leapt into the pond with a resounding splash. My husband asked Anthony, “How long do you think that frog can stay underwater?” Anthony went home to find the answer and it will be reported later in this article. The frog encounter reminded me of the chorus of frog songs coming from the wetlands at Mary Virginia Crites Hannan Park this spring and of the story Julie Zickafoose relates in her book “Letters from Eden” about the bullfrog that she moved from her garden pond to a wetland after she watched in horror as the bullfrog attempted to catch a hummingbird.
This brought to mind another frog story that, if you are weak of stomach or repelled by the cruelty of nature, you can avoid by moving directly to the next paragraph. One morning, when I filled the birdbath, I noticed a dead house finch in the pond, a rare, but not unusual happening. Jim went out later to remove and bury the bird and called, “You have to come and see this.” One of the rather small, green frogs in our pond had caught the finch and the bird was lodged in the frog’s throat, killing both of them. Guess that is truly biting off more than you can chew.
Clyde Gosnell, when he heard my story, said that frogs are as tenacious as alligators, but without teeth. They’ll literally eat each other and he had a picture of this in a painting by Charley Harper called, “Frog eat Frog.” He then told me about a strange thing that happened a few years ago. “I found a Hognose snake and, when I first approached it, it stood upright like a threatening cobra. When my son touched it with a stick, it turned over and played dead. He turned it upright and it turned right back upside down as if to say, “Leave me alone. I’m dead.” Lying there, it opened its mouth and, to our amazement, a toad hopped out, blinked its eyes and hopped away. The toad was truly born again.”
And now, to answer to my husband’s question, “How long can a green frog stay under water?” Anthony reported that a green frog could stay underwater for four to six hours. Frogs have lungs and breathe just as humans do, but they also have the ability to absorb oxygen through their skin, allowing them to stay safely underwater for hours.
In these uncertain times, it might help to look to nature for hope. If a frog can stay underwater for six hours and live, and a toad can hop unharmed out of a snake’s mouth, then we too can survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramona Edman is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist and a volunteer with the Friends of the Circleville Parks.