A tadpole is the larva of a frog or toad. Tadpoles look very different than adult frogs or toads. Tadpoles are swimming larva.
Amphibians like frogs and toads mate and lay their eggs in water. A female frog or toad usually lays 1,000 to 1,500 eggs at a time. The eggs are commonly in clumps or strings of clear jelly called spawn.
During the first week, the embryo in each egg grows. After about 5 days, a tadpole is about to hatch from each egg. On day 7, tadpoles begin to emerge from the spawn. After 10 days, they begin to swim and feed.
Tadpoles look like small fish. They have long, strong tails and gills on the outside of their body. The gills allow the tadpole to breathe underwater. It feeds on algae when it is very young.
After nine weeks, the tadpole’s gills disappear and lungs form inside its body. It also begins to develop back legs. At 10 weeks, the tadpole will have tiny teeth and can feed on vegetation and small animals such as worms and water fleas,
After 12 weeks the metamorphosis of the tadpole to adult frog or toad is nearly complete, front legs appear, eyes become more prominent, and the mouth gets wider. At 14 weeks, the tadpole is now a froglet with four legs; the tail shortens to a stump and is completely absorbed into the body.
At about 16 weeks after hatching, the tail is gone and the froglet becomes a tiny frog about 0.4 inches (1cm) long. It can leave the water and live as an amphibian on land. It will soon become an adult.
Frogs and toads never move far from the water where they were born and grew. The following year, they will mate.