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Frog Dissection
Background:
As members of the class Amphibia, frogs may live
some of their adult lives on land, but they must
return to water to reproduce. Eggs are laid and
fertilized in water. On the outside of the frog’s
head are two external nares, or nostrils; two
tympani, or eardrums; and two eyes, each of
which has three lids. The third lid, called the
nictitating membrane, is transparent. Inside the
mouth are two internal nares, or openings into
the nostrils; two vomerine teeth in the middle of
the roof of the mouth; and two maxillary teeth at
the sides of the mouth. Also inside the mouth
behind the tongue is the pharynx, or throat.
In the pharynx, there are several openings: one into the esophagus, the tube into which food is swallowed; one
into the glottis, through which air enters the larynx, or voice box; and two into the Eustachian tubes, which
connect the pharynx to the ear. The digestive system consists of the organs of the digestive tract, or food tube,
and the digestive glands. From the esophagus, swallowed food moves into the stomach and then into the small
intestine. Bile is a digestive juice made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile flows into a tube
called the common bile duct, into which pancreatic juice, a digestive juice from the pancreas, also flows. The
contents of the common bile duct flow into the small intestine, where most of the digestion and absorption of
food into the bloodstream takes place.
Indigestible materials pass through the large intestine and then into the cloaca, the common exit chamber of
the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems. The respiratory system consists of the nostrils and the
larynx, which opens into two lungs, hollow sacs with thin walls. The walls of the lungs are filled with
capillaries, which are microscopic blood vessels through which materials pass into and out of the blood. The
circulatory system consists of the heart, blood vessels, and blood. The heart has two receiving chambers, or
atria, and one sending chamber, or ventricle. Blood is carried to the heart in vessels called veins. Veins from
different parts of the body enter the right and left atria. Blood from both atria goes into the ventricle and then is
pumped into the arteries, which are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.
The urinary system consists of the frog’s kidneys, ureters, bladder, and cloaca. The kidneys are organs that
excrete urine. Connected to each kidney is a ureter, a tube through which urine passes into the urinary
bladder, a sac that stores urine until it passes out of the body through the cloaca. The organs of the male
reproductive system are the testes, sperm ducts, and cloaca. Those of the female reproductive system are the
ovaries, oviducts, uteri, and cloaca. The testes produce sperm, or male sex cells, which move through sperm
ducts, tubes that carry sperm into the cloaca, from which the sperm move outside the body. The ovaries
produce eggs, or female sex cells, which move through oviducts into the uteri, then through the cloaca to the
outside of the body.
The central nervous system of the frog consists of the brain, which is enclosed in the skull, and the spinal
cord, which is enclosed in the backbone. Nerves branch out from the spinal cord. The frog’s skeletal and
muscular systems consist of its framework of bones and joints, to which nearly all the voluntary muscles of the
body are attached. Voluntary muscles, which are those over which the frog has control, occur in pairs of
flexors and extensors. When a flexor in the leg (or other body part) contracts, that part is bent. When the
extensor of that same body part contracts, it straightens.
Frog’s External Anatomy
Materials:
 Gloves
 Dissecting tray
 Preserved frog
 Paper towels




Forceps
Pen
Ruler
Dissecting needle/probe
Procedure:
1. Put on gloves and get a frog and dissecting pan.
2. To determine the frog’s sex, look at the hand digits, or fingers, on its forelegs. A male frog usually has
thick pads on its “thumbs”, which is one external difference between the sexes, as shown in the diagram
below. Male frogs are also usually smaller than female frogs. Observe several frogs to see the
difference between males and females.
a. Record your observations on the Data Sheet.
3. Observe the dorsal (back) and ventral (belly) sides of the frog.
4. Examine the hind legs.
5. Examine the forelegs.
a. Record these observations on the Data Sheet.
6. Use a ruler to measure the length (cm) of your frog:
a. Measure from the tip of the head to the end of the frog's backbone (do not include the legs in
your measurement).
b. Compare the length of your frog to other frogs in the classroom.
c. Record your observations on the Data Sheet.
7. Use the diagram to the right to locate and
identify the external features of the head.
Check off each of the following on your
Data Sheet as you find it:





mouth
external nares
tympani
eyes
nictitating membranes
8.
Pry the frog's mouth open without breaking the jaw. Try to get the jaw open far enough to see the
structures in the mouth. Use the diagram and descriptions below to locate and identify the structures
inside the mouth. Check off the parts as you find them on your Data Sheet.
a. Locate the tongue.
b. In the center of the mouth, toward the
back is a single round opening. This is
the esophagus. This tube leads to the
stomach. Use a probe to poke into the
esophagus.
c. Close to the angles of the jaw are two
openings, one on each side. These are the
Eustachian tubes. They are used to
equalize pressure in the inner ear while
the frog is swimming.
d. Just behind the tongue and before you
reach the esophagus is a slit like opening.
(You may need to use your probe to get it
to open up). This slit is the glottis, and it
is the opening to the lungs. The frog
breathes and vocalizes with the glottis.
e. The frog has two sets of teeth. The vomarine teeth are found on the roof of the mouth. The
maxillary teeth are found around the edge of the mouth. Both are used for holding prey, frogs
swallow their meals whole and do NOT chew.
f. On the roof of the mouth, you will find two tiny openings, the internal nares. If you put your
probe into those openings; you will find they exit on the outside of the frog. These are the
nostrils.
Internal Anatomy of the Frog
Materials:
 Gloves
 Dissecting tray
 Preserved frog
 Paper towels
 Forceps





Pen
Ruler
Dissecting needle/probe
Dissecting pins
Scissors
Procedure:
1. Place the frog in the dissecting pan ventral side up.
2. Use scissors to cut and lift the skin and abdominal muscles to open the
body cavity. Use the diagram to the right to help you.
a. Cut along the midline of the body from the pelvis to the rib
cage.
b. Make horizontal cuts towards the arms and legs.
c. Lift the flaps of the body wall and pin them back, flat against
the dissecting pan.
3. If your specimen is a female, the body may be filled with eggs and an
enlarged ovary. You must remove these eggs to view the organs.
4. Use the diagram and descriptions below to locate and identify the structures inside the abdominal cavity.
Check off the parts as you find them on your Data Sheet.
a. Fat Bodies - Spaghetti shaped structures that have a bright orange or yellow color, if you have a
particularly fat frog, these fat bodies may need to be removed to see the other structures. Usually
they are located just on the inside of the abdominal wall.
b. Peritoneum - A spider web like membrane that covers many of the organs, you may have to
carefully pick it off to get a clear view.
c. Liver - The largest structure of the body cavity. This brown colored organ is composed of three
parts, or lobes - the right lobe, the left anterior lobe, and the left posterior lobe. The liver is
primarily an organ that aids in digestion; it secretes a digestive juice called bile. Bile is needed
for the proper digestion of fats.
d. Heart - at the top of the liver, the heart is a triangular structure. The left and right atrium can
be found at the top of the heart. A single ventricle is located at the bottom of the heart. The large
vessel extending out from the heart is the conus arteriosis.
e. Lungs - Locate the lungs by looking underneath and behind the heart and liver. They are two
spongy organs.
f. Gall bladder - Lift the lobes of the liver, there will be a small green sac under the liver. This is
the gall bladder, which stores bile.
g. Stomach - Curving from underneath the liver is the stomach. The stomach is the first major site
of chemical digestion in frogs. Frogs swallow their meals whole. Follow the stomach to where
it turns into the small intestine. The pyloric sphincter valve regulates the exit of digested food
from the stomach to the small intestine.
h. Small Intestine - Leading from the stomach. The first straight portion of the small intestine is
called the duodenum; the curled portion is the ileum. The ileum is held together by a membrane
called the mesentery. Note the blood vessels running through the mesentery; they will carry
absorbed nutrients away from the intestine. Absorption of digested nutrients occurs in the small
intestine.
i. Large Intestine - As you follow the small intestine down, it will widen into the large
intestine. The large intestine is also known as the cloaca in the frog. The cloaca is the last stop
before wastes, sperm, or urine exit the frog's body. (The word "cloaca" means sewer)
j. Spleen - Return to the folds of the mesentery, this dark red spherical object serves as a holding
area for blood.
k. Esophagus - Return to the stomach and follow it upward, where it gets smaller is the beginning
of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that leads from the frog’s mouth to the
stomach. Open the frog’s mouth and find the esophagus, poke your probe into it and see where it
leads.
5. Remove frog’s stomach. Open it up by cutting it lengthwise with your scissors, just as you did to the
frog’s abdominal cavity.
a. You may find what remains of the frog's last meal in there.
b. Look at the texture of the inside of the stomach.
c. Record your observations on the Data Sheet.
6. Remove the small intestine from the body cavity and carefully separate the mesentery from it.
a. Stretch the small intestine out and measure it (cm).
b. Now measure the length of your frog (in case you do not have the same frog as yesterday).
c. Record your observations on the Data Sheet.
7. You have completed the dissection. To clean-up:
a. Place the frog and all of its organs in the trash bag designated by your teacher.
b. Clean the dissecting pan and all tools with soap and water.
c. Wash your lab bench with cleaner.
d. Remove and dispose of your gloves.
e. Wash your hands.
Name: _____________________________________
Date:
Frog Dissection
160 pts.
Data Sheet
Background 3 pts. each
1. What do you think is the function of the nictitating membrane? Why?
2. A frog does not chew its food. What do the positions of its teeth suggest about how it uses them?
3. Trace the path of food through the digestive tract of the frog (list the structures).
4. How is this path different from the path for a human?
5. How is a frog’s heart different than a human heart? Trace the path of blood through the frog heart.
6. Name all of the substances that are collected in the cloaca.
7. How is this different than the human pathways for these substances?
External Anatomy 3 pts. each
1. Do you think your frog is a male or a female? Why?
2. What colors are the dorsal and ventral sides of your frog?
3. Describe the texture of the frog’s skin.
4. How many toes are on each hind leg?
5. How many toes are on each forelimb?
Are they webbed?
Are they webbed?
6. Measure the length (cm) of your frog. Compare your results with your classmates in the table below:
Frog length measurements: 5 pts
Your Frog
Frog 2
Frog 3
Frog 4
Average Frog Length
7. Did you find the: 5 pts
 mouth
 external nares
 tympani
 eyes
 nictitating membranes
8. Label each structure named above on the diagram 
5 pts
9. What is the diameter (cm) of the tympanic membrane? 2 pts
10. What color is the nictitating membrane? Why? 2 pts
11. Did you find the: 8 pts
 tongue
 esophagus
 Eustachian tube
 glottis
 vomarine teeth
 maxillary teeth
 internal nares
 nostrils
12. Label each structure named above on the diagram  8
13. Does the tongue attach to the front or back of the mouth? 2pts
14. When you insert a tube into the Eustachian tube, where does it lead? Why? 2 pts
15. Describe 2 differences between a frog’s mouth and a human mouth. 6 pts
Internal Anatomy 11 pts
1. Did you find the:
 Fat Bodies
 Peritoneum
 Liver
 Heart
 Lungs
 Gall bladder





Stomach
Small Intestine
Large Intestine
Spleen
Esophagus
2. Label the Diagram: 2 pts (18 total)
A. ___________________________
E
B. ___________________________
C. ___________________________
D. ___________________________
A
B
E. ___________________________
F
G
C
H
F. ___________________________
I
G. ___________________________
H. ___________________________
D
I. ____________________________
3. What did you find in the stomach? 2 pts
4. How long (cm) was your frog? How long (cm) was the small intestine? How do they compare? 4 pts
5. Answer the following questions about the functions of these structures in a frog: 2 pts (28 total)
a. This membrane holds the coils of the small intestine together:
b. This organ is found under the liver, it stores bile:
c. The organ that is the first major site of chemical digestion:
d. Eggs, sperm, urine and wastes all empty into this structure:
e. The small intestine leads to the:
f. The esophagus leads to the:
g. Yellowish structures that serve as an energy reserve:
h. After food passes through the stomach it enters the:
i. The first part of the small intestine (straight part):
j. A spider web like membrane that covers the organs:
k. Regulates the exit of partially digested food from the stomach:
l. The large intestine leads to the:
m. Organ found within the mesentery that stores blood:
n. The largest organ in the body cavity:
Analysis Questions
1. Recall your observations of the eyes and the nictitating membrane. How are these structures of the eye
related to their function? How do they serve as an adaptation? 8pts
2. Examine the abdomen of the frog's body below and the squeezing of the chest cavity. What skeletal
feature is lacking in the frog that is present in humans and other mammals?
a. How is this an adaptation for the frog? Explain. 8 pts
There are no
so
the chest is easily squeezed
together.