We take a short leap from the frog blog of last week and staying in the world of amphibians, we come to their close cousins, the toads, who like frogs are all part of the Anura (tail-less) family.
One of the first things to address is that age old question – what’s the difference between frogs and toads? Well, here goes:
Frogs have longer legs than toads – preferring to hop, whilst toads like to crawl; frogs have smoother skin than toads, which tend to be more warty and finally frogs need moisture and are typically found near to a water source, whereas toads will happily exist without the wet stuff nearby, only needing this for laying their eggs.
As well as the adults looking a little different, the young toadspawn and toad tadpoles are also distinct from their frog relatives in that toadspawn forms strings rather than clumps and toad tadpoles are darker and bigger in appearance, so whilst there are many similarities to frogs and toads there are enough distinct difference to warrant them being classed as separate, although some claim that toads are a type of frog…
Toads are known for their ‘warts’ which is what the bumps on their skin are commonly called – although these are not in fact warts -they are bumps that cover the parotoid glands, which produce the secretions that cover the toad’s skin. By the way, it’s a total old waves tale that handling a toad gives you warts!
As some frogs do, toads are able to defend themselves by producing a poisonous secretion on their skin to make them unpalatable, which helps to put off such diners as snakes – but some sneaky snakes have developed an immunity to the toad’s toxins – so the toads have another rather unsavoury trick to play – they urinate on themselves to give them an even more unappealing taste …nice.
Indeed, all toads are poisonous and whilst there are far fewer toads than frogs that can pose a risk to humans, two species: the Cane toad and the Colorado River toad are highly toxic.
The cane toad is found in Southern USA and Southern America and also Australia. It is the largest toad species – with the biggest one identified to date being a hefty 2.6kg (almost 6lb) and measuring nearly 54 cm (1ft 1in) – wow! Cane toads have become a problem in that they are very invasive. Of course, humans are responsible, having introduced the species into sugar cane plantations as a form of pest control in the 1930s – the toads had no natural predators and their populations have exploded, so controlling them is proving a challenge. Recently, in Australia, scientists are using a combination of a parasite, which has been found only to attack the cane toads and of using alarm pheromones to disturb their tadpoles.
The Colorado River toad is also quite a bruiser, measuring up to 190mm (7 in). These guys are also toxic enough to be a threat to humans – but as their skin secretion is known to provide an hallucinogenic effect, some foolhardy souls have been known to use it as a form of drug – needless to say, the intake of this has resulted in some untimely deaths. As well as humans, such toads can easily poison smaller mammals, including cats and dogs, so vigilance is key for pet owners who live in these parts of the world.
You’d have to conclude from all this that a toad’s skin doesn’t hold any appeal whatsoever – apart from to the toad itself that is – because they like to eat their own old skin every time they shed it to produce a new one during growth – great recycling!
So apart from their own skin (!) what else do toads like to munch on? Insects are a main feature on their menu, but they will also eat other reptiles and even small mammals – they have a sticky tongue, which helps them to reach out and catch their dinner, which as they have no teeth, they swallow whole!
Like their frog cousins, toads have also made their way into fiction – unfortunately they are often seen as a symbol of negativity and even evil – but it’s not all bad – just think of Toad of Toad Hall from the Wind in the Willows.
The toad is also appreciated in Vietnam, where it is known as the uncle of the sky – the bringer of rain – it is believed that it can hasten on a downpour whenever it croaks. Hope you found this blog toadally interesting