Reader’s wildlife photos

November 6, 2019 • 11:30 am

by Greg Mayer

A corespondent from Florida sends the following photos from Fort Myers. First up, a giant or marine or cane toad (Bufo marinus) that is living under a beehive. In this first photo, you can see that the variegated coloring is fairly cryptic against the leaf litter background.

Bufo marinus, Fort Myers, Florida, 3 November 2019.

Getting a little closer, a few things are notable. First, from the body shape (which I am tempted to describe as “jowly”, despite the fact that it’s her abdomen that’s distended), I can tell this is a fairly large individual. My correspondent, unprompted, stated it was about 15 cm long, which sounds about right for a big one. The biggest ones are in the Guianas, where they get to about 25 cm.

Bufo marinus, Fort Myers, Florida, 3 November 2019.

Second, as the preceding sentence implies, she is a female. Females are larger, and retain the brown/black/tan blotching and spotting of the juveniles. This coloration is typical of many species of toads at all ages, and in both sexes. Adult males of marinus are distinctive in becoming uni-colored in some olive drab-like shade (see a male here). And finally, note the large parotoid gland extending from above the arm towards the eye. This gland can secrete a milky toxin, which is part of the toad’s defenses.

These toads, native from the lower Rio Grande down into South America, have been introduced into Florida, and to many other places, including islands in the West Indies and the Pacific, and Australia, where they picked up the moniker “cane toad”, which is rapidly becoming the vernacular name throughout the English-speaking world. I always called them “marine toads”, from their scientific name. They are not marine (although they can be found in brackish situations), and it’s just a coincidence that U.S. Marines have landed in so many of the places that the toads were introduced (e.g. Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, New Guinea, the Philippines, etc.).

Next up a brown anole (Anolis sagrei). This species and its close relatives are widespread in the West Indies, including Cuba and the Bahamas, and have, like the toad, been introduced in to Florida and many other places. The green anole, Anolis carolinensis, native to Florida, is now perhaps less abundant than prior to the arrival of sagrei, but the native is not threatened by the invader. In Cuba, the two species (or close relatives) live side by side, with the green anole higher in the vegetation, the brown anole lower, and this ecological situation has now been replicated in Florida; the two species were “preadapted” for coexistence by their long joint history in Cuba.

Anolis sagrei, Fort Myers, Florida, 31 October 2019.

Last but not least, something higher on the scala naturae, an anhinga, Anhinga anhinga, drying its feathers. These diving birds, which stab their piscine prey with their bills, do not have waterproof feathers.

Anhinga anhinga, Fort Myers, Florida, 31 October 2019.