AskDefine | Define tadpole

Dictionary Definition

tadpole n : a larval frog or toad [syn: polliwog, pollywog]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Middle English tad meaning "toad" and poll for "head".


  1. A young toad or frog in its larval stage of development that lives in water, has a tail and no legs, and, like a fish, breathes through gills.



toad or frog larva

Extensive Definition

A tadpole (also known as a pollywog, poliwag or polliwog) is the wholly aquatic larval stage in the life cycle of an amphibian.


During the tadpole stage of the amphibian life cycle, most breathe by means of autonomous external or internal gills. They do not usually have arms or legs until the transition to adulthood, and typically have dorsal or fin-like appendages and a tail with which they swim by lateral undulation, similar to most fish. As tadpoles mature, they most commonly metamorphosize by gradually growing limbs and then (most commonly in the case of frogs) outwardly absorbing its tail by apoptosis, Lungs develop around the time of leg development and tadpoles late in development will often be found near the surface of the water where they breathe air. During the final stages of external metamorphosis, the tadpole's mouth changes from a small enclosed mouth at the front of the head to a large mouth the same width as the head. The intestines shorten to make way for the new diet.
A rare exception to the rule distinct differences between the tadpole (juvenile) and adult (frog, toad, salamander etc) stages is the axolotl. Axolotls exhibit a property called neoteny, meaning that they reach sexual maturity without undergoing metamorphosis.


Most tadpoles are herbivorous, subsisting on algae and plants. Some species are omnivorous, eating detritus and, whenever available, other tadpoles.
tadpole in Asturian: Renacuayu
tadpole in Catalan: Capgròs
tadpole in Czech: Pulec
tadpole in Danish: Haletudse
tadpole in German: Kaulquappe
tadpole in Spanish: Renacuajo
tadpole in French: Têtard
tadpole in Indonesian: Kecebong
tadpole in Italian: Girino
tadpole in Hebrew: ראשן
tadpole in Lithuanian: Buožgalvis
tadpole in Malay (macrolanguage): Berudu
tadpole in Dutch: Kikkervisje
tadpole in Japanese: オタマジャクシ
tadpole in Norwegian: Rumpetroll
tadpole in Polish: Kijanka
tadpole in Portuguese: Girino
tadpole in Quechua: Huq'ullu
tadpole in Sicilian: Mazzareddu (larva acquàtica)
tadpole in Simple English: Tadpole
tadpole in Slovak: Žubrienka
tadpole in Finnish: Nuijapää
tadpole in Turkish: İribaş
tadpole in Chinese: 蝌蚪

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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