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 - Costa Rica

Cane Toads

Cane Toads

Hilights

  • Scientific Name: Bufo marinus
  • Status in the Wild: Common
  • Habitat: Cloud Forests, Rainforests, Tropical Dry Forests, Woodlands
  • Diet: Omnivore

Covered in bumps and mottled skin, the cane toad's appearance is so exaggerated that it seems to have leapt out of the nearest copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Native to Central and South America, this amphibian is the world's largest toad, topping the Guinness Book of World Records at an impressive 5.8 pounds.

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Cane toads are also known as bufo and marine toads – the latter moniker in spite of their preference for terrestrial, rather than aquatic habitats. Cane toads are very large, often measuring up to six inches and tipping the scales at five pounds. Their warty looking skin may vary between shades of maroon, olive-brown, gray and green.

When attacked, marine toads excrete bufotoxin from their parotid glands, located just behind their ears. The toxin is a milky, viscous fluid that is potent enough to kill or seriously injure predators. In populated areas, cane toads present a danger to household pets, especially dogs and cats. A poisoned pet will usually begin drooling profusely or foaming at the mouth, and will have red gums. They may also experience seizures and heart failure. If your pet has come into contact with a cane toad, immediately rinse its mouth out with water or milk and then seek emergency veterinary attention.

Unlike similar species, cane toads consume both dead and living matter. They are prolific eaters, and in the Caribbean and Oceania they have been introduced as a form of natural pest control. One such use has been in sugar cane fields, and it is from this purpose that the toad derives its name. However, this species adapts easily, and has become an invasive pest in many regions.

While most frog and toad species identify their prey by sight, marine toads are also capable of sniffing out their next meal. They prefer rodents, small invertebrates, and other amphibians, as well as plant life. As they move into populated areas, cane toads have also adapted to forage for dog food and household waste.

Habitat:

The range of cane toads is from the southern United States through parts of northern South America, but they have also been introduced throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. In Costa Rica, these large toads live in deforested areas, secondary forests, tropical savannah, and open fields. They are extremely common in inhabited areas.

Reproduction:

Male marine toads call to their mates from puddles, ponds or other slow-moving water sources. The male mating song consists of gurgles and trills, and are low pitched but loud, often heard from miles away.

Males are smaller than females, and sit upon the females' backs during reproduction. After mating, the female deposits single-clump spawns of several thousand fertilized eggs in shallow, stagnant waters that are exposed to the sun. Several days later, the tadpoles hatch, and within a few weeks' time they have grown into small toads. Before their first birthday, cane toads measure at least two inches long and have reached sexual maturity.

Status in the Wild:

Cane toads are considered a species of least concern. Predators of cane toad eggs and tadpoles are so numerous that only 3 in every 10,000 tadpoles grow into adults. These predators include wolf spiders, dragonfly nymphs, saw-shelled turtles, and freshwater crayfish. Caimans, snakes, eels, and several species of killifish are natural predators of adult toads. Certain bird and mammal species, such as ibis and water rats, have learned to eat only the toads' organs, tongue and legs, which contain less bufotoxin.