Do Pacman Frogs Bite? (Do They Have Teeth?)

hungry pacman frog ready to bite whatever gets close

Pacman frogs are one of the most popular pet frogs. While they’re more officially called horned frogs (or the Ceratophrys genus) these frogs earned the nickname “Pacman” because of their round shape that makes them look like the popular video game character whose sole mission is to chomp down on little pellets.

That nickname alone should tell you a lot about the horned frog’s willingness to bite but it’s still worth asking…

Do Pacman frogs bite?

Yes, Pacman frogs (or horned frogs) are very willing to bite humans. Bites are usually related to confusion around food and these frogs will happily chomp on your finger to see if they can eat it. But horned or Pacman frogs will also bite humans if they’re feeling threatened or scared. 

Bites can draw blood but rarely go any further than that and most Pacman frog bites are more surprising than they are painful. Let’s take a closer look at the Pacman frog, their teeth, bite force, and everything else you need to know about these popular frogs and their proclivity for biting.

Does A Pacman Frog Have Teeth?

Yes, Pacman frogs do have small sharp teeth found on their upper jaw and are one of the few frogs to have both vomerine and maxillary teeth. These teeth are primarily used for holding onto wiggling prey but they can also draw blood on humans if the Pacman frog is large enough. 

Even though it might be surprising, Pacman frogs are far from the only frogs with teeth and it appears that the frog family has evolved to lose and gain teeth more than dozen times over their extensive evolutionary history.

While these teeth might not look impressive if you catch a quick glance at them when your Pacman frog open’s its mouth, when you zoom in to take a closer look you can see just how sharp these teeth are. You can see a picture of Pacman frog teeth here:

picture of pac man frog teeth
(a) view of teeth with jaws closed; (b) view of teeth with mouth slightly open; (c) close-up of single tooth. Scale bars = 1 mm. Source

Vomerine teeth are only located in the front part of the mouth and researchers have found that there is a lot of variety in whether or not frogs actually have these teeth at all. They found that the front vomerine teeth were present in 202 species but completely absent in 226 others.

Maxillary teeth, on the other hand, are found on the sides of the upper jaw and they’re the teeth that are pictured in the images above.

While not all frogs have teeth, many do. But what really makes the Pacman frog unique is that they have both vomerine and maxillary teeth while most other frogs have only one, the other, or neither.

Despite all these teeth, the Pacman frog still only uses their teeth for gripping prey (or your finger) and not for chewing. Instead, like other amphibians, Pacman frogs simply swallow their prey whole.

How Strong Is A Pacman Frog’s Bite?

Horned frogs (which is the group that Pacman frogs are part of) appear to have the strongest bite force of any frog. The specific shape of their large skulls gives them impressive bite power and even smaller frogs are able to bite with a force of 30 Newtons (equivalent to 6.5 pounds). 

You can see exactly how researchers tested the bite force of these little frogs in the video below:

Researchers found that larger horned frogs (again, the group that Pacman frogs are part of) were able to produce even more force and horned frogs with a head size of 100mm produced a massive 500 Newtons of bite force!

The bigger the frog, the bigger the bite force, and researchers were even able to plot this out on a graph to show that as head size increased so did bite force. Using that data, they determined that the ancient (and extinct) horned frog ancestor called Beelzebufo would have had a bite force similar to a wolf!

While you don’t have to worry about getting bit by Beelzebufo, the Pacman frog still has plenty of power to cause a painful bite.

Does A Pacman Frog Bite Hurt?

The combination of strong powerful jaws and a set of small teeth means that a bite from a Pacman frog can be uncomfortable but it’s usually not much more than that. It’s not uncommon for these bites to draw blood but it’s rare that they cause any significant damage. 

As you’d expect, larger Pacman frogs can cause bites that are more painful, and as head size increase so does bite force. But it’s not a linear relationship and according to the research, a 2x increase in head size can lead to a 15x increase in bite force.

So while you might not mind a bite from a young Pacman frog, if you allow that habit to continue you could be in for some trouble as your pet Pacman frog grows into a much bigger and stronger frog!

That’s why using gloves or tongs for feeding is important and avoid letting your Pacman frog associate your fingers with their food.

Still, most bites from Pacman frogs are more uncomfortable than truly painful and you can see this in action in this video:

Why Do Pacman Frogs Bite?

Just like any other frog, Pacman frogs typically bite for two reasons: they either think you’re food or they feel threatened by you. Feeding with tongs or gloves can help keep your fingers safe when feeding and respecting your Pacman frog’s boundaries can help reduce the chance of aggression. 

Still, Pacman frogs are one of the more aggressive frogs and it’s not uncommon for them to bite. Not only because they’re not quick to back down from a threat but like many frogs, they aren’t always the smartest and are willing to try to eat just about anything- including your finger. Especially ambitious Pacman frogs have even been known to try and eat things that are larger than they are!

Are Pacman Frogs Poisonous or Venomous?

While there are many poisonous frogs, the Pacman frog isn’t one of them. Additionally, the Pacman frog isn’t venomous and the main concern from a bite is the physical damage that it can cause instead of any type of toxin.

What Should You Do If A Pacman Frog Bites You?

The first thing to do is stay calm!

Your almost instant reaction will be to pull back your hand but try to avoid doing this. Not only can this hurt the Pacman frog but it could also make the bite worse and you allow their teeth to dig in. After all, those teeth are designed to prevent prey (or your finger) from getting out.

Instead, relax and the Pacman frog will eventually figure out that they aren’t going to get anywhere and let go of your hand or finger. It’s okay to give them a gentle nudge on the nose as well to speed up the process.

After the bite is over, check for any broken skin and treat the area with a disinfectant. Even though Pacman frogs aren’t poisonous or venomous, salmonella can be a real concern and can spread more quickly in an open wound.

Once the wound is cleaned, it’s a good idea to reflect on how this happened in the first place so you can prevent it from occurring again. Were you interacting with your Pacman frog while they were hungry or have you picked up some bad hand-feeding habits? Whatever the cause, try to find a way to prevent it in the future.

Closing Thoughts

On paper, Pacman frogs seem like powerful biting machines. And that’s mostly true.

But they’re still quite small relative to humans so while their bites are uncomfortable they’re usually not a source of major pain. The bigger concern is usually surprise from the bite and Pacman frogs can be very quick when they want to be.

You can avoid bites by taking a few precautions but if you handle Pacman frogs for long enough you’ll probably get bit at some point.

What do you think? Have you been bitten by a Pacman frog?