Can frogs scream?

BBC Wildlife contributor Jules Howard answers your wild question. 

Common frog © Linnéa Ernofsson

Some frogs certainly can, especially the common frog. The usual cause of this shrill, piercing shriek is alarm at a predator, often a cat or dog. The noise can last for more than five seconds and resembles the scream of a startled baby.

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Juvenile birds and crocodiles are thought to emit calls like this to attract the attention of their parents, but little is known about the adaptive significance of such distress calls in frogs. Most scientists agree that the scream probably evolved as a mechanism to startle attackers, but it could also serve to attract secondary predators. If a bird attacks a frog, for instance, the frog’s scream may lure a cat. The jury is currently out on the true evolutionary reasons at play.

Common brown frog (Rana temporaria) with its mouth open
Common brown frog (Rana temporaria) with its mouth open. © Jens Gade/Getty

Some newts also emit a distress call – a short, muffled groan. Common toads aren’t widely reported to use such a tactic. Perhaps having poison glands and being able to fill your body with air is protection enough.

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