Critter Corner - Toad
DID YOU KNOW:
Toads are interesting amphibians that are often
misunderstood. The bumps on their body contain a foul-tasting
fluid and when most predators try to eat a toad they will
quickly spit it out. It is not true that people get warts from
handling a toad, but you should always wash your hands
afterwards. If you don’t and rub your eyes or touch your mouth
you may have an unpleasant burning or a bad taste!
diet consists mainly of insects but spiders, snails, earthworms
and salamanders are all on the menu if they can be caught.
Surprisingly, a toad will not eat anything that doesn’t move!
Toads usually don’t stalk their prey; but wait until it gets
into “tongue-snapping” range. When an insect is close enough,
the sticky tongue (which is actually attached to the front of
its lower jaw) whips out, captures the prey, and snaps it back
into the toad’s mouth. A toad’s tongue-flip takes only 15/100
of a second, much to fast to be seen with the human eye!
springtime, female adult toads return to the water to lay long
strings of jelly-coated eggs. The male toads are present to
fertilize these eggs. Like all amphibians, toads are born in
the water and spend the first half of their lives as tadpoles.
Toad tadpoles stay underwater and breath using gills just like a
fish. But as they continue to grow, they lose their tails, gain
two pairs of legs and begin breathing air. This complete
change, or metamorphosis, takes about 2 months.
live in many places from our yard’s bushes to deep in the
forest. They need vegetation (to hide in), and moist, cool soil
with lots of bugs. Toads build short burrows in which they hide
from predators as well as to ambush their prey. When it is
time to reproduce they will look for small bodies of clean water
that do not contain fish (which will eat their eggs). Sadly,
toads and other amphibian numbers are declining due to habitat
loss and water pollution. We can help toads by careful use of
pesticides and by controlling soil erosion near water.
Besides tasting terrible, toads have other tricks to keep
from being eaten. When a toad finds itself in danger it will
inflate its body and lower its head to form a large ball. If
hiding between rocks the inflated toad will be hard to pull
free. This is also an attempt to fool the predator into
thinking the toad is too large to eat. Even if you like toads,
when you pick one up it will be frightened and probably will go
to the bathroom. This is yet another way to make you think he
would not make a good meal!
A toad has to close its eyes to swallow. This blinking
motion pushes the eyes down into the upper part of the
toad’s mouth and helps push the food down the toad’s throat!
It is only
the male toad that sings. He inflates a sac in his throat
like a balloon and forces air across the vocal cords. Male
toads can even sing underwater!
The largest toad in our area, the American Toad, measures
2-3 inches. Would you believe the world’s largest toad, the
Marine Toad of Mexico and South America, can measure 9
inches and weigh 3 pounds!
To learn more about
(Photo from Missouri
Department of Conservation)