by Greg Mayer
For the end of Amphibian Week, we have a photo gallery, starting with my late, lamented, Toady, who was collected by David Wingate, Bermuda’s foremost naturalist, in 1999, and who died in 2019, at the age of 20+ years. The Giant Toad, Bufo marinus, (also known as the Marine Toad or Cane Toad) is native to the continental American tropics and subtropics, and was introduced to Bermuda.
Note the enormous parotoid gland behind the eye, which secretes poisons that can protect the toad from predators.
Next, from Chis Petersen of DoD PARC, a gallery of amphibians that are found on U.S, military bases, and this report summarizing the status of threatened and endangered species on these bases (it includes both amphibians and reptiles).
My thanks to Chris, who has been distributing amphibian images, documents, and links throughout Amphibian Week. (If you’re wondering why the Department of Defense is involved in conservation, we’ve dealt with that before at WEIT. The short answer is that 1) the military must obey applicable environmental and conservation laws on military lands, and 2) certain animals pose practical issues for the military (e.g., venomous snakes). The Navy, which I know best, employs a number of professional herpetologists. Recall as well that the military has often enabled scientific exploration (the Beagle, for example, was a Royal Navy ship), and military reservations have sometimes had the best preserved habitats (e.g., much of the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge was annexed from Fort Meade.)
Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. 2019. Department of Defense Herpetofauna Conservation Status Summary. Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. pdf
9 thoughts on “Amphibian Week Day 5”
Off-hand question: what (if any) species made you want to pursue herpetology? And do you have a favorite family. Turtles? Toads? Did you keep snakes? I so wanted to as a kiddo, but my mother forbade it.
Crocodilians were my gateway animal. I did have a DeKay’s snake for a short while; it escaped in my back yard, but it was caught locally and so returned locally.
Toady lived over 20 years? Wow, I am impressed. How did you take care of him? Did you feed him? I wouldn’t think they would like snow too much. 😂
We have Bufos all over the place at our house here in Hawaii, ranging from little guys about half-dollar size to pretty large specimens. We have been warned not to touch them, so we shoo them into a bucket when we need to transplant them elsewhere.
I have always loved frogs, salamanders, etc. when I lived in Oregon … but now I love geckos, anoles & skinks as that is what I see most often here in Hawaii.
Toady of course lived in a tank indoors (the back yard was for the photo shoot only!), except when she visited schools and such on educational visits. She ate crickets, waxworms, earthworms, and pinkie mice.
Giant Toads are not dangerous to touch. Unless the parotoids are visibly extruding a viscous, white, substance (which they will do if the toad is greatly stressed), you’ll get little or nothing on your hands; just wash up afterwards. But eating them raw, or biting their backs, is a bad idea! (In South America, some predators have learned to flip them over and eat them from the belly– the skin there does not have poison glands.)
All the terrestrial herps of Hawaii (with the possible exception of one skink) are introduced: many have been introduced since Captain Cook’s visits, and, last I checked, none of the earlier known species have been found in pre-Polynesian fossil layers. Sean McKeown’s book, A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islandsg (1996), is till the best comprehensive account, but a bit out of date.
I was going to ask if the poison glands protected this toad or taught the eater not to do it again and protected the next toad, but you answered that nicely in this reply.
Thank you for these photos and your notes. We don’t see enough about – or appreciate amphibians. I have fond memories of being a kid and watching the metamorphosis – pollywogs to wee frogs and the wonderful croaking at dusk. That meant all was well with the world.
Fans of the cane toad who have not seen the documentary “Cane Toads An Unnatural History”
will have a treat.
There’s also a nice companion book, which can be found second hand.
Military bases have great importance for conservation. I used to do EIS studies on Fort Hood, a huge base which had some of the largest chunks of undisturbed forest in central Texas, because there was no ranching done there. These forests were some of the best habitats in the state for the Texas-endemic Golden-cheeked Warbler. Also, even the disturbed areas were important, because fire supression in the rest of the state had caused the near-extinction of species that depended on successional vegetation that would normally appear a few years after fires. The most important such species was the Black-capped Vireo. Bombing and shelling was, counterintuitively, great land mamagement for this species.