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Slimy Frog Skin

March 14, 2011

A listener asks: Why is frog skin slimy?



The secrets of frog skin…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Courtney Fenwick of Washington, DC wrote to ask why the skin of many amphibians is slimy. We asked amphibian conservation biologist Brain Gratwicke of the National Zoo. He explains that mucus on the skin serves different functions depending on the species. It protects some amphibians from predation.

BRAIN GRATWICKE (Smithsonian National Zoological Park):

It’s really tough to catch a really slimy frog. They’re very very slippery.


He says slimy skin also sometimes contains antimicrobial chemicals that guard against infection. Mucus can also provide a moist surface for moving oxygen and carbon dioxide into and out of tissues. But Gratwicke says many amphibians such as toads aren’t slimy because they live in dry habitats, where dry skin protects them from dehydration. And if you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-why-isit. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

African clawed frogs are so slippery, predators find them extremely hard to catch. (Michael Linnenbach/Wikimedia Commons)