What Is Amphibian Metamorphosis?

amphibian metamorphosis

All amphibians, including this tiger salamander, undergo metamorphosis.

Amphibian metamorphosis is something that happens in the life of all amphibians.  Do you know what exactly that means and what happens to amphibians?

Amphibians are unique among the different kinds of animals because they live two very different lives.  Before metamorphosis they live in water and breathe through gills, but afterwards most of them live on land.  In contrast to this most animals live their entire lives either in water or out of water.

What Is Metamorphosis?

To begin with, I just want to give the definition of metamorphosis.  Metamorphosis can be defined as a change in the form or nature of a thing into a completely different one.

For example, sometimes people will say that so and so underwent a metamorphosis and changed from an evil person into a nice one.

The only two kinds of animals that undergo metamorphosis are insects and amphibians.

What Is Amphibian Metamorphosis?

All amphibians, whether or not they are frogs, toads, or salamanders begin their lives living in water. Then as they develop and grow older they reach a point at which they are ready to become an adult.  At that point they undergo metamorphosis and change into their adult form.

amphibians metamorphosis

A frog lifecycle is a good example of how amphibians undergo metamorphosis.

For most amphibians, the adults leave the water to live on land and then return to the water only when they are ready to lay eggs.  The amphibian before metamorphosis breathes through gills and after metamorphosis most breathe through lungs.

Metamorphosis For Insects Differs From Amphibians Metamorphosis

While both animals undergo metamorphosis they are different.  Insects undergo metamorphosis to change from their larval form to their adult form.  This may mean that they change from a water breathing nymph to an air breathing adult.  But, not all insects change in that way.

On the other hand, most amphibians change from a water breathing larval form to an adult that breathes air and lives on land.

amphibian metamorphosis

This is a lungless clouded salamander from Oregon. Photo via Flickr.

However, there are some adult amphibians that are lungless.  Rather than breathe air through their lungs, they live on land and only breathe through their skin!