Introduction to Toad

Toad, a small, tailless amphibian. Scientifically, there is no distinction between toads and frogs. Both belong to the same order of the class Amphibia, and are called anurans. However, because of popular usage, zoologists use the term true toads to describe only one family of anurans, the Bufonidae.

ToadsToads have shorter hind legs than frogs, and hop instead of leap.

True toads are found throughout the world, excepting the polar regions, Australia and neighboring islands, and Madagascar. They have shorter hind legs than frogs, and hop instead of leap. Generally, their skin is rougher than that of frogs. Toads vary in length from about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) to more than 9 inches (23 cm).

Glands in the toad's skin secrete a fluid that is poisonous to most of the toad's enemies. Humans are not usually affected by handling toads, but find the secretion of some species irritating to mucous membranes. There is no basis in the belief that toads cause warts. In China, toad skins were used for centuries in the treatment of heart diseases. In modern times, several drugs have been isolated from toad skin secretion. One of these drugs, bufotenine, has a stimulating effect on the heart similar to that of digitalis.

ToadToad skin is rougher than that of frogs.

The breeding habits and life cycle of toads are almost identical to those of other anurans. (S Toads that live in dry regions do not breed until there is sufficient rainfall to form pools. These pools must be large enough to remain until the larvae, or tadpoles, metamorphose and can live on land. If the pools dry up too soon, the tadpoles die. Some kinds of toads lay their eggs singly, others in masses of thousands.

Tadpoles feed on algae and other water vegetation. Adult toads eat insects, spiders, and worms. The toad's long tongue, like the frog's, is fastened toward the front of its mouth, and is darted out swiftly to catch prey. The prey is swallowed whole. Toads feed mostly at night and remain in burrows or moist, shaded spots during the day. In dry regions, toads stay in burrows or bury themselves in the ground during the hottest part of the year, coming out during periods when rain falls.

Toads of the United States

There are about 15 species of true toads in the United States, all belonging to the genus Bufo. Some of them are also found in Canada and Mexico. They include:

American Toad

Body length is 2 to 4 1/2 inches (5 to 11.5 cm). The color ranges from olive to reddish brown on top, with dark markings. The American toad is found in southeastern Canada and the eastern half of the United States.

The American toad is B. americanus.

Fowler's Toad

Body length is 2 to 3 1/4 inches (5 to 8.3 cm). Fowler's toad is usually gray or brown on top, but sometimes is reddish. It is found from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, in southern Michigan, and in parts of the lower Mississippi Valley. It is also found in southern Canada.

Fowler's toad is B. woodhouseifowleri.

Great Plains Toad

Body length is 2 to 4 1/2 inches (5 to 11 cm). This toad is gray, brown, or olive on top, with large dark-green blotches. It is found over the Great Plains region and in northeastern Mexico.

The Great Plains toad is B. cognatus.

Oak Toad

Body length is 3/4 of an inch to 1 1/4 inches (2 to 3 cm). The oak toad is gray or black on top with a yellowish-orange stripe down the middle of the back. It is found on the coastal plain from North Carolina to eastern Louisiana.

The oak toad is B. quercicus.

Giant Toad

Largest toad found in the United States, with a body length of 4 to 9 inches (10 to 23 cm). It is brown to greenish on top, with deep pits in the skin. It is found in the extreme southern part of Texas and south through South America.

The giant toad is B. marinus.

The giant toadThe giant toad grows up to nine inches long.

What’s the Difference Between Frogs and Toads?

Frogs and toads have a lot in common. And some frogs even have the word “toad” in their names. No wonder people often confuse them.

Frogs and toads have some major differences, though. Frogs have wet skin. Except for some frogs that burrow, they have long hind legs for jumping. Some frogs can climb trees.

Toads, on the other hand, have dry, warty skin. They are fatter and rounder than frogs, and they have short hind legs. They may hop, but they stay close to the ground.

Frogs and toads have their own separate myths, too. People pretend that if a princess kisses a frog, it will turn into a prince. And they like to say that holding a toad will give you warts. Both ideas are popular myths—but neither one is true.

Do Frogs and Toads Have Families?

Neither frogs nor toads live in families. Most provide no care for their eggs or young. However, some adult frogs and toads do guard their eggs against insects, ducks, fish, and other predators. They also care for their eggs until they’re ready to hatch.

Some types of female tree frogs carry their eggs on their backs until the eggs are ready to hatch. When the eggs hatch into tadpoles, the females carry them and release them in a pond or stream. Female Surinam toads carry eggs on their backs sunken in their skin. These eggs always hatch into fully-formed frogs called froglets.

Male midwife toads swim with eggs wrapped around themselves. Male Darwin’s frogs swallow their mate’s eggs and keep them safe in a vocal pouch. There, they develop into tadpoles and then frogs before the male releases them.