Many of us have been discouraged from getting a closer look at a frog by someone claiming that handling a frog can give you warts.
Growing up, I remember being told this a time or two by peers in the days before a quick Google search could prove them wrong. Even in the age of smartphones, though, this myth persists.
A gray tree frog
Can You Get Warts from Frogs?
No, handling frogs cannot give you warts. Warts are caused by the HPV virus, which is only carried by humans.
As with many myths, the deeper question lies in how this belief came to be in the first place. The answer becomes apparent when you look at the bumpy, wart-like skin texture of certain frogs like toads and tree frogs. Many assume that all frogs have smooth, slimy skin, but frogs that spend their adult lives on land have a different type of skin that aids in their protection.
Warty-looking skin provides protection for frogs by providing a surprising amount of camouflage, allowing it to blend in and hide in plain sight from predators.
A spring peeper (Image by Dave Huth/CC BY-NC 2.0)
While working our Native Plant Sale this year, I pulled out a plant container that looked like it had a large clump of dirt in it. About ten minutes later, that clump of dirt moved! I was certainly startled to see the clump had turned out to be an American toad. If it had not moved, I would have never known it was there.
A toad hides in a planter at the Forest Preserve District's annual Native Plant Sale earlier this year.
Frog “warts” function as protection that goes beyond camouflage. Toads also have large bump-like pads located behind their eyes that house their main defense mechanism. Known as paratoid glands, they secrete a milky neurotoxin that makes them foul-tasting to predators. Their bumps also function as a suit of armor, protecting their skin from injury.
Although frogs do not give you warts, should you still handle them? I suggest that you do not. Not for your protection, but for theirs. They are such strong jumpers that they can easily escape from hands and end up falling onto the ground, likely injuring themselves. Still want to get a closer look at a frog the next time you encounter one? Capture one with your camera lens.
Fun facts about frogs:
- Frogs absorb water through their skin so they don't need to drink.
- Frogs can lay as many as 4,000 eggs in frogspawn.
- The eyes and nose of a frog are on top of its head so it can breathe and see when most of its body is under the water.
- Frogs have long back legs and webbed feet for jumping and swimming.
- Certain frogs can jump up to 20 times their own body length in a single leap.