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Title: Tadpole  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Frogs and toads/DYK, Cane toad, Amphibians/DYK/27, Frogs and toads/DYK/14, Frogs and toads/DYK/4
Collection: Amphibians, Developmental Biology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia



A tadpole (also called pollywog or porwigle in British English) is the larval stage in the life cycle of an amphibian, particularly that of a frog or toad. They are usually wholly aquatic, though some species have tadpoles that are terrestrial.


  • Etymology 1
  • General description 2
  • Fossil record 3
  • Human use 4
  • Mythology and history 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Tadpoles, 10 days old

The name "tadpole" is from Middle English taddepol, made up of the elements tadde, "toad", and pol, "head" (modern English "poll"). Similarly, "polliwog" is from Middle English polwygle, made up of the same pol, "head" and wiglen, "to wiggle".

General description

Metamorphosis of Bufo bufo.
Tadpole stage of Haswell's frog

Tadpoles are young amphibians that usually live in the water, though a few tadpoles are semi-terrestrial (Indirana beddomii and Thoropa miliaris) and terrestrial (Indirana semipalmata and Leptodactylus andreae).[1] During the tadpole stage of the amphibian life cycle, most respire by means of autonomous external or internal gills. They do not usually have arms or legs until the transition to adulthood, and typically have a large, flattened tail with which they swim by lateral undulation, similar to most fish.

Toad tadpoles, Puerto Cortés, Honduras

As a tadpole matures, it most commonly metamorphosizes by gradually growing limbs (usually the back legs first, followed by the front legs) and then (most commonly in the case of frogs) outwardly absorbing its tail by apoptosis. Lungs develop around the time of leg development, and tadpoles late in development will often be found near the surface of the water, where they breathe air. During the final stages of external metamorphosis, the tadpole's mouth changes from a small, enclosed mouth at the front of the head to a large mouth the same width as the head. The intestines shorten to accommodate the new diet. Most tadpoles are herbivorous, subsisting on algae and plants. Some species are omnivorous, eating detritus and, when available, smaller tadpoles.

Tadpoles vary greatly in size, both during their development and between species. For example, in a single family, Megophryidae, length of late-stage tadpoles varies between 33 millimetres (1.3 in) and 106 millimetres (4.2 in).[2] The tadpoles of Pseudis paradoxa grow to 25 centimetres (9.8 in), the largest of any frog.[3]

Fossil record

Despite their soft-bodied nature and lack of mineralised hard parts, fossil tadpoles (around 10 cm in length) have been recovered from Upper

  • Video of Hundreds of Tadpoles
  • How to Raise Tadpoles
  • Raising Tadpoles to Adulthood (University of California Berkeley) Archived version.
  • Mysterious tadpole rain in Japan in June 2009

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons The dictionary definition of tadpole at Wiktionary

External links

  • McDiarmid, Roy W.; Altig, Ronald, ed. (1999). Tadpoles: the Biology of Anuran Larvae. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Zug, G. R.; Vitt, L. J.; Caldwell, J. P. (2001). Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles.  
  2. ^ a b Li, Cheng; Xian-Guang Guo; Yue-Zhao Wang (2011). "Tadpole types of Chinese megophryid frogs (Anura: Megophryidae) and implications for larval evolution". Current Zoology 57 (1): 93—100. 
  3. ^ Crump, Martha L. (2009). "Amphibian diversity and life history" ( 
  4. ^ a b McNamara, M. E.; Orr, P. J.; Kearns, S. L.; Alcalá, L.; Anadón, P.; Peñalver-Mollá, E. (2009). "Exceptionally preserved tadpoles from the Miocene of Libros, Spain: ecomorphological reconstruction and the impact of ontogeny upon taphonomy".  
  5. ^ McNamara, M. E.; Orr, P. J.; Kearns, S. L.; Alcalá, L.; Anadón, P.; Peñalver-Mollá, E. (2006). Taphonomy of exceptionally preserved tadpoles from the Miocene Libros fauna, Spain: Ontogeny, ecology and mass mortality (PDF). The Palaeontological Association 50th Annual Meeting.  
  6. ^ Fei Liang, Wu Guanfu (2004). "Oreolalax rhodostigmatus".  
  7. ^ Biju, S.D.; Dutta, Sushil and Inger, Robert (2004). "Clinotarsus curtipes".  
  8. ^ Javier Icochea, Edgar Lehr (2004). "Telmatobius mayoloi".  
  9. ^ Rita Brogan (2011). "Nooooooodles! (Korean Style)". The Foodiesan Blog. Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Scott, James George, Sir. 1935. The Wa or Lawa: Head-Hunters. In Burma and Beyond. p. 292


In the Ancient Egyptian numerals a hieroglyphic representing a tadpole was used to denote the value of 100,000.

According to origin myths of the Wa people in China and Myanmar the first Wa originated from two female ancestors Ya Htawm and Ya Htai who spent their early phase as tadpoles (rairoh) in a lake known as Nawng Hkaeo.[10]

Mythology and history

Despite its name, ol-chaeng-ee guksu, Korean tadpole noodles, is a vegetarian dish.[9]

Some tadpoles are used as food. Tadpoles of megophryid frog Oreolalax rhodostigmatus are particularly large, more than 10 cm (3.9 in) in length,[2] and are collected for human consumption in China.[6] In India, Clinotarsus curtipes are collected for food,[7] and in Peru at least Telmatobius mayoloi tadpoles are collected for food and medicine.[8]

Captive common frog tadpoles eating a piece of salmon.

Human use

groups. Labyrinthodont Tadpole remains with telltale external gills are also known from several of the [4]

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