Toad is a common name for certain frogs, especially of the family Bufonidae.
There are about 350 species of toads.
Toads are cosmopolitan in distribution, found throughout both temperate and tropical regions, except in Australia, Madagascar, polar regions, and Polynesia.
The lifespan of toads is about 4 to 15 years in the wild and from 5 to 40 years in captivity.
Toads range in size. The smallest North American toad is the oak toad (Bufo quercicus), which reaches a length of only 1.3 inches (0.7 centimeters). Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are the largest toads and grow up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length. But a massive cane toad caught in Australia, nicknamed “Toadzilla,” has been described as the size of a small dog!
Toads are characterized by dry, leathery skin, short legs, and large bumps covering the parotoid glands.
They are fat-bodied, where frogs are generally slim.
Toads have two main color schemes. Each one signals a different survival technique. Those with bright colors (like poison frogs) advertise their presence and warn potential predators that their skin is toxic. Those with mottled green or brown colors are camouflaged so predators have a hard time finding them.
They also have additional survival techniques as well. If a predator is after a toad, the toad can puff itself up so it looks too big to swallow. Most toads can also secrete a burning milky toxin from a gland, called the parotoid gland, behind their eyes!
Most toads are terrestrial, although some live partially in streams, and a few are arboreal.
Toads are mostly nocturnal, resting during the day in burrows, in trees, or under leaves, undected unless they leap out from under your feet. Toads will also hibernate in burrows in winter and during drought.
Toads eat insects, grubs, slugs, worms, and other invertebrates like other amphibians do. As tadpoles, they eat plants. Toads, as pets, will eat fruit or vegetables.
Toads have to blink in order to swallow, because this presses their eyes onto their mouths, pushing the food down their throats.
Each species of toad has a unique call. Males use their call to attract females for mating or to keep other males away from their territory.
During mating season, toads gather near vernal pools, ponds, creeks, flooded ditches and even rain puddles. Male toads, like frogs, sing or call to attract mates, with each species making its own distinct sounds. After mating, the females leave egg sacs in the water. Depending on the species, one female toad can produce up to 30,000 eggs in her life. Ideally, after the eggs hatch, tadpoles can find food and safety in the water until they metamorphose into adults.
Toads provide important values for ecosystems and for human beings. Ecologically, they are important in food chains, being significant predators of insects and other invertebrates, and serving as a food source for fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and other amphibians.
Several toad species are federally listed as endangered or threatened. The biggest threats to toads are habitat degradation and invasive species.
Because of their warty appearance and poisonous nature, humans do not tend to eat toads.
Spadefoot toads can act as amphibian weather forecasters. Before a rainstorm, they come out by the hundreds to croak something that sounds like, “rain-today, rain-today.” People living nearby know to expect a storm.
In Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows, Mr. Toad is a likeable and popular, if selfish and narcissistic, comic character. Mr. Toad reappears as the lead character in A. A. Milne’s 1929 play Toad of Toad Hall, based on the book.
In Chinese culture, the Money Toad (or Frog) Jin Chan appears as a Feng Shui charm for prosperity.