Friday, June 3, 2011

Toads in Love

Toad Amplexus- Click to enlarge
"In the spring, a young toad's fancy turns to thoughts of....." well you know.  -with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Barb slammed on the brakes as we drove down our country lane.  There was a slight movement of a pile of mud in a gravel filled puddle.  The "mud" turned out to be a pair of amorous Eastern American Toads locked in an embrace called amplexus. 

The American Toad (Bufo americanus) is a common sight on evening walks as it begins its nightly hunt for food.  Their diet includes insects, worms, slugs and other small invertebrates.  They are gentle and easily picked up if you can overlook their tendency to "develop a leak" in your hand.

Their "warty" appearance has given rise to the old wives tale that handling them can give you warts.  Their "warts" are raised skin bumps which can secrete bufotoxin, a substance that is a mild toxin with a foul taste.  Your dog isn't likely to eat two in its lifetime unless he is a beagle with a learning disorder.

According to Wikipedia, amplexus is a form of pseudocopulation.
"Pseudocopulation describes behaviors similar to copulation that serve a reproductive function for one or both participants but do not involve actual sexual union between the individuals.  Pseudocopulation is also used to describe close physical contact between mating animals which have their eggs externally fertilized.  Frogs and toads provide one such case, with the male releasing sperm as the female discharges her eggs, a process called amplexus."
Sadly, these toads picked the wrong spot to procreate.  Their eggs develop into tadpoles which take 30-40 days to develop into adults and become land based.  This puddle will dry up in a day or so and the wheels of vehicles pass through it many times a day.  They hopped off into a thicket, still locked in the throes of toady passion, before I could tell them this or move them into a more suitable place.   Love doesn't always conquer all.

A good resource on toads in your garden is at choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com.

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