Nature (Season 32) – Fabulous Frogs

Air date: 06/25/2014

THIRTEEN’s Nature Surveys the World of Fabulous Frogs Wednesday, June 25, 2014 on PBS


Presented by Sir David Attenborough


Sir David Attenborough takes us on a journey through the weird and wonderful world of frogs, shedding new light on these charismatic, colorful and frequently bizarre little animals through first-hand stories, the latest science, and cutting-edge technology. There are more than 5,000 species of frogs and toads, and they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Their amazing adaptations for survival have made them the most successful of all amphibians.

Fabulous Frogs uses high-speed camera techniques and graphics to illustrate the wide variety of frog anatomy, appearance and behavior.  The program airs Wednesday, June 25 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After the broadcast, the episode will be available for online streaming at

The ancestors of today’s frogs were a group of amphibians that lived around 300 million years ago, and their anatomy resembled that of a salamander. As Attenborough shows, they had long spines with ab0ut 30 vertebrae ending in a tail. Fifty million years later, an intermediate form evolved with only 15 vertebrae and almost no tail, but the hind legs were much bigger. Compare that to today’s amphibian with an even shorter spine, elongated pelvis, and long, strong legs that can enable some frogs to leap at least 30 times their own body length. The reason they are able to jump so far is revealed in Fabulous Frogs.

Among the many frog behaviors singled out in the program are courtship techniques, which can involve anything from calling, waving, or changing color, to knock-down, drag-out fights for the right to mate. The female gliding leaf frog, found in the jungles of South America, listens to mating calls from all the males nearby and heads in the direction of the loudest voice. That call is her roadmap to the strongest male, and thus the best mate. Panama golden frogs employ visual signals to reinforce their courting intent. Males wave to potential rivals to warn them off, but if that doesn’t work, a wrestling match ensues to determine mating rights. When the winner spots a female, he waves to show he’s interested and if she returns the wave, the courtship is a success, and mating can begin.

Frog anatomy can function in all sorts of interesting ways. Frogs can’t turn their heads from side to side because they don’t have necks. But they solve that problem with their very big eyes, which give them an almost 360-degree range of vision. Those big eyes are also called into service to help frogs eat. As frogs swallow, they pull their bulging eyes downwards to help push food down their throats. And while a frog doesn’t drink, it absorbs all the water and most of the oxygen it needs through its skin.

A frog’s skin can provide camouflage or a brightly-colored warning, and can also contain deadly toxins that serve not only a defensive purpose but are a source of traditional and modern medicines, as well. However, this same marvelous membrane has also proven to be a deadly vulnerability. A frog’s permeable skin is so sensitive to its surroundings that if there are environmental problems, frogs are among the first creatures to be affected. While loss of habitat and pesticides contribute to loss of their numbers, one particularly lethal pathogen called a chytrid fungus specifically attacks the cells in a frog’s skin, blocking the flow of essential salts to muscles and eventually causing the heart to stop beating. A number of different species of frogs are already extinct in the wild, though some continue to be bred, studied and conserved in captivity until such time, if ever, a remedy can be found or the fungus disappears and they can be reintroduced to their original home.

Although Attenborough notes that almost a third of all amphibians are now threatened with extinction, he points out that frogs are incredibly adaptable creatures whose ability to survive even in the most improbable places is truly extraordinary and continues to offer hope in spite of the threats that face them.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET.  For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Fabulous Frogs is a co-production of THIRTEEN Productions, LLC and BBC in association with WNET.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry.  Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won over 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 12 Emmys and three Peabodys.  The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Recently, the International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media. is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the nation’s public television stations.


About WNET
As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mike Schneider and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.


About “Think Wednesday”

Fabulous Frogs is part of PBS’ new “Think Wednesday” programming lineup of television’s best science, nature and technology programming that includes the acclaimed series NATURE and NOVA, the highest-rated nature and science series on television, coupled with new special programming at 10 p.m.  Wednesday nights on PBS offer new perspectives on life in the universe and keep viewers both curious and wanting more.


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