The Truth Behind Toads
Will a toad give you warts if you pick it up? Or will a toad curse you if it stares into your eye? No! Over time people like to embellish their experiences into lavish tales, but really a toad is just a toad! They cannot perform magical tricks, but they are quite amazing! Do you recognize the big toad in town? That’s the Marine Toad, Rhinella marina! The Marine Toad is the largest toad found in Belize and is native to Central and South America. These giants thrive near human habitation and oftentimes you can hear them calling down by nearby waterways. Unfortunately these toads get a bad rap, but they are incredibly important for Belize!
Toads are amazingly adapted to their environments and some species can live in the harshest of climates, including deserts! Their bumpy skin is not for giving people warts, but instead allows them to conserve moisture and travel far distances from water. Toads also have a great defense against predators. Ever notice the large lumps behind the toad’s eyes? These are called the parotoid glands and they contain a poison that is called Bufotoxin. Bufotoxin is a neurotoxin that is quite distasteful to predators and in some instances can be lethal. These seemingly harmless amphibians pack a punch!
On cool or rainy nights, the toads emerge to forage for food. When the rainy season comes, the toads will find water, where they meet to breed. A female Marine Toad can lay 5,000 to 25,000 eggs! These eggs hatch into little black tadpoles. Toad tadpoles are social and congregate in large groups in the shallow area of streams and rivers. After a couple of months, the tadpoles metamorphose into toadlets and crawl out of the water to seek refuge in the surrounding environment.
Why Toads are Important
Do you like cockroaches? Or mice invading your cupboards? Being a predator, the Marine Toad will eat insects, rodents, and other pests in your yard. Marine Toads have even been known to eat snakes! Toads are also a food source for many animals. Beetles, snakes, and coatis will sometimes snack on a toad. Amphibians are incredibly important for balancing ecosystems, and when they are gone the ecosystem can collapse.
Toadally Awesome Things You Can Do to Help Out Toads!
Toads in your yard? Worried about your pets eating them? Don’t kill them! The Marine Toad’s poison is only toxic if ingested so you can pick them up and gently move them from your yard. However, if you handle a toad, always wash your hands after touching them.
Slow down on wet nights! As toads move from place to place, they commonly need to cross roads. Every year millions of amphibians are run over by cars! If you happen to be driving at night and see a toad, go around it or pull over safely to the side of the road, hop out of the car, and move the toad off the road in the direction it was traveling. Just make sure to not get squashed yourself!
Show the toads some love. Toads, like many amphibians around the world, are disappearing from ecosystems. Amphibians are the most threatened group of organisms on the planet and 2,000 species of amphibians are threatened by extinction. Can you imagine a world without toads? Of course not! So, give them a brake and appreciate these charming, fascinating creatures!
For more information how you can help out toads and other amphibians in Belize, please check out www.savethefrogs.com/belize.
Marine Toads by Michael Starkey: Starkey@savethefrogs.com, www.savethefrogs.com