Friday, May 10, 2013

Toad Song

Amplexis- they "toadly" ignored me as they mated
Two years ago we described toads reproduction in Toads In Love.  I wasn't aware at the time that not every toad on toad encounter is boy-girl. In fact a male toad is likely to mount anything that resembles a toad, including other male toads, similar sized frogs and an occasional lump of mud.  You might think that this would be embarrassing to the "mounter," but there are no studies to confirm this.  It does however generate a release call from the "mountee."
"A release call is produced by a male toad or an unreceptive female toad when a male toad or other animal gets on its back and grabs its sides in the position used for mating or amplexus. It's a toad's way of saying "Get off my back! Let go!" It is also used to call attention to a male's territory, and a male amplexing a female will produce the call when another male tries to interfere with the amplexus."  californiaherps.com
Cottonmouth with toad
You can hear the subtle release call simply by picking up a toad and gripping it firmly but gently along the sides of its abdomen.  Both sexes will produce this subtle sound, more a gentle warning than a complaint.  Or for the wart free version listen to the release call here.  It doesn't always work as in the case of the predator to the right.   Caution: toads don't produce warts but they may pee on you.

Much more familiar is the advertisement callThe advertisement call of the eastern American toad is a long musical trill lasting from 6 to 30 seconds.  It is a common sound around any body of water in the spring, regardless of size, as the male toad tries to attract females for breeding.  It also serves to warn other males that "I am the biggest, baddest guy around so find your own darned pond."  They call mostly in the evening and into the night, but may extend it into daytime when desperate.  Advertisement call heard here.
Toad eggs sticking together

Once mounted (amplexus), the male fertilizes the eggs as the female releases them into the water.  The result it a rather distinctive set of two spiral strings of eggs generally along the waters edge.  Soon the eggs develop into tiny black tadpoles with gold specks, which then lose their tails as legs develop, morphing into toadlets, ready to hit the land.

American toad eggs in pond- note spiraling pair of strands
If you haven't heard this restful sound this year, you need to get outside more often in the evening.  The advertisement call is frequently misidentified as a cricket.  If you want to impress your friends, just keep in mind that crickets call in the fall, so the sound of a "cricket" in spring is likely a toad looking for love.

Herpnet is an excellent resource.
fcps.edu has more pictures and information.
You can hear the pond side calls at this site.
Much more than you ever want to know is at amphibiaweb.org

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