Members of the amphibian species are easily amongst nature's most icky and rather weird characters. Some are slimy and bug-eyed and some are poisonous or can be harmless, the amphibian class of animals have a diverse feature set. Amongst the various toad and frog species, a rather sinister animal is the Cane Toad. At first not much was known about it but now it has gained a reputation as a very invasive animal, whose population and tactics can get out of control. Intrigued? Read on for some cane toad facts, to get the real dirt on this toady pest.
Physical Fact File
|Scientific Name||Bufo marinus|
|Other Names||Giant neotropical toad, Marine toad|
|Size||15 - 23 cm in length|
|Weight||Up to 4 lbs|
|Lifespan||5 - 10 years|
- Just saying "a distinctly toady appearance" does not completely describes the true look of this amphibian giant. The cane toad's body structure is short but powerful with short legs. Round but flat with a short and compact appearance. Front feet are unwebbed, while back or hind legs have a tough, leathery webbing at their base.
- Distinctive large head with ridges above the eyes, that meet at the snout. This toad's head is flat and compressed, not high or raised. The relative flatness and size of the head is due to the presence of a large parotoid gland, placed behind each ear. Their eyes are horizontally aligned.
- The skin is dry and warty to the touch. The coloring of the cane toad is designed with camouflage in mind. Basic color patterns are grayish yellow, olive-brown or reddish brown. Their underside or bellies are lighter in color, with yellow or creamy tones. Dark splotches, stripes and mottles can be observed. Females are said to have a smoother skin, more brownish in color tone as compared to males. Eyes are golden or dark brown.
- Young toads or juveniles are smaller in size, with less blend-in coloring. They have a dark and uniform skin tone, with darker and fewer blotches or stripes. Their parotoid glands are not developed. Tadpoles are very shiny and black in color. They have a small but typical tadpole shape, short tail with dark belly. Their length is between 10-25 mm in length.
Interesting Cane Toad Facts
- The Cane Toad is a very adaptable amphibian. Its native habitats comprise humid, subtropical forest and woodlands, with a nearby water source. They reside mainly on land, using the water only for breeding and spawning. With man's environmental activities and a dwindling natural habitat, this toad will venture out and can be found in a variety of habitats, from gardens to construction sites. They are very hardy, and can adjust to any temperature except for the extreme cold. They can live even with the loss of 50% of their body water.
- Naturally, the cane toad is a South and Central American amphibian species. But it has been introduced into a number of regions, as a pest controller and killer. In Puerto Rico, it successfully cut down the local rat population. It was introduced for a similar purpose in Australia, Jamaica, the Philippines, Fiji, New Guinea and even the U.S.A. In the U.S.A., these toads were introduced in Florida, Hawaii and Louisiana, out of which they have flourished very well in Hawaii but in Florida, are regarded as a pest.
- The cane toad is active at night. They hide in crevices, niches and depressions during the day, to avoid predators. They are ravenous predators themselves, with a reputation for eating anything that can fit in their mouth. Natural prey includes insects like ants, honeybees, lizards, frogs, worms and beetles. They eat fish, small rodents and birds too and will swallow their prey whole. They have been known to steal dog and cat food from unwatched containers. Even their young ones are not safe, as cane toads have been observed eating young cane toads and tadpoles. They hunt based on sight and sense of smell. Tadpoles eat algae and small aquatic micro-organisms, sometimes even cane toad eggs.
- The Cane toad moves quite rapidly when it wants to, in short but fast hops. It can sit upright and will puff up its lungs, in order to make itself look bigger, to frighten off a predator. But its most deadliest quality is its poisonous toxin, bufotoxin. The large paratoid glands of the toad produce this venom and it is distributed along the body. So for an unsuspecting predator, taking a bite of the toad, can result in a mouth full of poison that is deadly to the extreme. It affects the heart directly and will kill in 15 minutes. There have been numerous cases of pet dogs and cats dying from fiddling with a cane toad. Even the eggs and tadpoles are poisonous. If severely threatened, the toad will squirt or eject the venom, for a short distance. If this enters the eyes, nose or mouth or even on the skin, temporary blindness, swelling and pain will occur.
- In their native habitat, the cane toad has a number of enemies, which are the Banded Cat-eyed snake, the Caiman, eels, the Rock flagtail and some ibis and catfish species. Its poison spitting habit and skin is a very powerful deterrent to most predators. Juveniles and tadpoles being underdeveloped, are easier targets. In Australia, its enemy list is restricted to the Black Kite and the Saw-shelled turtle. Young ones are preyed on by Keelback snakes, crows, white-faced Heron, the Tawny Frogmouth and the Giant White-tailed Rat. The cane toad's predators have learned to eat smart to avoid ingesting poison, such as eating from the underbelly or eating certain parts.
- Along with eating and being poisonous, cane toads are notoriously prolific breeders. Their mating age is dependent on size and location. Male cane toads emit a loud, purring trill noise to attract females, who don't emit noises. The fight for an eligible female is rough, the male catches the female in the armpits to stake his claim, bigger toads will shove off smaller ones to get a female. Fertilization is external and in the water. An estimated 8,000-35,000 eggs are laid at a time. The eggs appear as a long sticky string and float on water. Within 24-72 hours, the eggs hatch as tadpoles, who congregate together. They grow very rapidly into toadlets within a month. There are a lot of tadpoles at a time but because they are not as poisonous as adults, they are very vulnerable and only 0.5% reach adulthood.
No matter how fascinating they are, in the continent of Australia, the cane toad is a very serious threat to the local fauna and human population. The lack of any natural predators, very comfortable living conditions, abundant food and over-enthusiastic breeding habits has made the cane toad, a "dictator" in the Australian animal kingdom. Its gorging eating sprees have lessened the population of certain native Australian species like the Argus monitor. They are also a serious hazard to pets and birds. Though they were introduced to rid the country of cane beetles, the cane toad became a deadlier pest itself and is a classic example of how man's interference with nature can have disastrous consequences.