What is a tadpole?
A tadpole is the aquatic larval stage in the life cycle of an amphibian, such as a frog or toad. Tadpole means ‘toad head.’
A tadpole has a grey, laterally-compressed body and tail, with internal or external gills to enable it to breathe underwater, and a mouth to eat algae.
It is about 1.5-2 centimetres (less than 1 inch) long.
A tadpole lives in freshwater. It hatches from an egg in about 3 weeks, and it has not yet turned into a frog. This is called metamorphosis. It takes, on average, 6-9 weeks to change from a tadpole into a frog, but large frogs can take much longer, such as a few months.
To become a frog, it must lose its tail, grow four legs, and its gills must become lungs to breathe air. It grows its back legs first, then its front legs, then it loses its tail by absorbing it (this is called apoptosis).
A tadpole is herbivorous, eating plants.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM