Amphibians are cold-blooded, smooth-skinned animals from the Chordate Phylum. This class of animals includes frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts. Some live on land and some in the water, but most species return to the water to mate and lay eggs. You can see many amphibians in the Unseen New World at Nashville Zoo.

  • African Clawed Frog

    Native to Africa

    Warm, stagnant pools


    Up to 15 years

    Up to 7 oz, 4.5 inches

    Adults are scavengers; tadpoles are filter feeders

    African clawed frogs are native to parts of Africa but they have become invasive in many areas including the US, Britain, and Chile largely due to the pet trade. Their name comes from three short claws on their hind feet that are used to stir up mud to hide from predators. African clawed frogs are scavengers and will eat almost anything they see including arthropods, larvae, water insects, crustaceans, small fish, tadpoles, worms, and snails. The tadpoles are filter feeders. African clawed frogs are very adaptable and can lie dormant in dried ponds for around a year. They are very useful in laboratory research due to the amount of eggs they can lay.

    You can see our African clawed frogs in Unseen New World.

  • Axolotl


    Xochimilco Lake near Mexico City

    High altitude lake

    Critically Endangered

    Up to 6 years

    Up to 8 oz, 12 inches

    Mollusks, fish, arthropods

    Pronunciation: ACK-suh-LAH-tul

    Axolotl were found in the high altitude lakes of Chalco and Xochimilco near Mexico City, Mexico. Axolotl were the top predator in their habitat, however they are now critically endangered due to the increase of predatory fish and the disappearance of Lake Chalco. Axolotl breed from March to June. Females will deposit 100-300 eggs on hard surfaces in water and they will hatch 10-14 days later. The species retains certain characteristics of their larval stage even when they are fully mature adult salamanders.

    You can see our axolotl in Unseen New World.

  • Blue Poison Arrow Frog

    South America



    10 years

    0.3 oz, 2 inches

    Spiders, small invertebrates

    The blue poison arrow frog is one of more than 100 species of poison arrow frogs that come in a variety of colors and patterns. These bright colors warn potential predators to stay away. Poison arrow frogs got their name because several tribes in Central and South America would use the poisonous secretions of the frogs to poison their hunting arrows.

    After mating, a female poison arrow frog will lay 2-6 eggs and both males and females take care of the eggs, which includes keeping them moist and protecting them from predators. Once they are old enough, the male frog will guide the tadpoles on his back to a stream or small pool where they develop into baby frogs. You can see this poison arrow frog along with other species of poison arrow frogs in Unseen New World.

  • Hellbender

    From New York to Alabama/Mississippi

    Fast moving, shallow streams

    Near Threatened

    Up to 30 years

    4-5 lbs, 20 in

    Crayfish, fish, invertebrates

    The largest salamander in Tennessee, hellbenders can be found in the eastern two thirds of the state. Hellbender populations have gone through dramatic declines across their range over the last 20 years and are now a candidate species for endangered status listing.

    Hellbenders will spend their entire lives in water. They prefer cold fast moving water with high levels of oxygen due to the fact that 95% of their oxygen is absorbed through their skin. Their tiny eyes can detect light but are not very good at forming images. Hellbenders are solitary nocturnal animals who spend the daytime hiding under rocks. A meeting between two hellbenders will usually result in a fight between them. You can see our hellbenders in Unseen New World.


    Nashville Zoo is leader in hellbender conservation. We operate a Hellbender Conservation Program and participate in other state conservation initiatives.

  • Panamanian Golden Frog


    High elevation forests near streams

    Critically Endangered

    Up to 12 years

    Up to 0.5 oz, 2.5 inches

    Small insects

    The bright color of the Golden frog alerts potential predators to its dangers similar to its distant poison dart frog relatives from South America. Golden frogs live in habitats with loud fast moving water and also lack an eardrum, so how do they communicate? They actually use a form of sign language. Golden frogs will wave their hands or raise their feet to defend territory, attract a mate, or even greet each other. Young frogs are much more secretive than adults and are dark colored to match their habitats. They will change into the golden color has they age and become more toxic. Panamanian golden frogs are critically endangered due to a skin disease caused by the chytrid fungus.

    We participate in the Panamanian Golden Frog Species Survival Plan®.

  • Puerto Rican Crested Toad

    Puerto Rico

    Semi-arid, rocky forests

    Critically Endangered

    Up to 10 years

    2-6 oz, 3-4 inches

    Insects, invertebrates

    The Puerto Rican Crested Toad is the only toad native to the island of Puerto Rico. It makes its home on the northern and southern coasts of the island. Mating usually happens during the rainy season and eggs are laid in pools of water, streams, or small dams.

    The Puerto Rican Crested Toad was the first amphibian placed on a Species Survival Plan (SSP) due to rapid population declines because of the invasive marine toad that was introduced to Puerto Rico in the 1920s. Nashville Zoo has sent thousands of tadpoles to the island for reintroduction. You can see our Crested Toads in Unseen New World.


    Nashville Zoo has been involved in Puerto Rican crested toad conservation since 2012 and participates in the Puerto Rican Crested Toad Species Survival Plan®.

  • Surinam Toad

    Eastern South America, Trinidad

    Murky ponds/swamps

    Least Concern

    Up to 8 years

    Up to 5.5 oz, 8 inches

    Small fish, crustaceans, invertebrates

    Although named the Surinam toad, they are actually frogs. You might mistake them for a leaf or a rock, and that’s the point! When prey swim near them, the frogs lunge forward, swallowing their prey in one gulp. These fully aquatic frogs have an interesting reproductive strategy. The pair do somersaults in the water where the males fertilize the eggs and drops them onto the female’s back, where they are completely covered by her skin after a few days. The offspring hatch under the skin where they remain for 3-4 months when the frogs burst out of the mothers back!

    The Surinam toads can be seen in Unseen New World.