WHAT EATS TADPOLES?

What Eats Tadpoles. Photo:Bohringer Friedrich

What Eats Tadpoles? Photo:Bohringer Friedrich

Who Would Eat A Tadpole?

What eats tadpoles?

Lots of creatures eat tadpoles. In fact, unless you’re a plant or an alga (singular for algae), you can’t get very much lower on the aquatic food chain, or farther from the center of the aquatic food web, than a wriggling pollywog. Although the luckiest tadpoles grow up to become frogs that are predators in their own right, dining on insects that they harpoon with their sticky tongues, while they’re still in the legless, tongueless tadpole stage they are slow and almost defenseless, and the odds of any one tadpole living long enough to become a frog are very long indeed. That’s because just about every animal that eats full-grown frogs will also gladly eat tadpoles—and tadpoles are a lot easier to catch. Plus, pollywogs have a few predators that frogs don’t have to worry about.

Until they become frogs, tadpoles themselves eat algae and plant material. But, what eats tadpoles? Here’s a partial list:

Raccoons eat tadpoles (at least in North America they do), as do such predatory birds as great blue herons. Fish such as bass and carp would swallow them by the bucketful if they could, and so would water snakes. Baby alligators and crocodiles eat them before they grow big enough to attack full-grown frogs. Young snapping turtles also snap them up.

What eats tadpoles? Tadpoles are so low on the totem pole that dragonfly larvae and other predatory insects frequently make a meal of them. And pollywogs aren’t even safe from their own family members: frogs often eat tadpoles, and big tadpoles sometimes swallow smaller ones.

All in all, however, it’s a good thing that not all tadpoles live long enough to become frogs. One female frog lays hundreds of eggs at a time, and if all the eggs from all the frogs survived to adulthood, we’d soon be knee-deep in frogs.

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