The broad diversity of amphibian developmental strategies has been shaped, in part, by pathogen pressure, yet trade-offs between the rate of larval development and immune investment remain poorly understood. The expression of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in skin secretions is a crucial defense against emerging amphibian pathogens and can also indirectly affect host defense by influencing the composition of skin microbiota. We examined the constitutive or induced expression of AMPs in 17 species at multiple life-history stages. We found that AMP defenses in tadpoles of species with short larval periods (fast pace of life) were reduced in comparison with species that overwinter as tadpoles and grow to a large size. A complete set of defensive peptides emerged soon after metamorphosis. These findings support the hypothesis that species with a slow pace of life invest energy in AMP production to resist potential pathogens encountered during the long larval period, whereas species with a fast pace of life trade this investment in defense for more rapid growth and development.