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Wondrous Wildlife - July 2011
- Written by Vern and Lori Geiger
By Vern and Lori Geiger
Mexico is home to some of the tiniest wild creatures and to some of the largest, but this guy truly is king of toad family. The Giant Toad also known as the Cane Toad or Marine Toad is one of the largest toads in the world and is the largest species in its family. These guys weigh in at four to five pounds and grow up to nine inches in diameter. Thankfully the myth that toads can give you warts is just that, a myth; or one could get a whopper of a wart from these guys.
The giant toad can be found from Texas to Peru, Giant Toads are not picky eaters and will consume just about everything they find. They will even eat pet food left out around residential areas, as well as, carrion, and garbage. They have also been known to eat snakes, birds, and small mammals, such as mice. Their primary food source, however, is insects, including ants, termites, crickets, and beetles.
Because of their voracious appetite these toads have been introduced as a natural pest controller, the giant toad or should we say the “Orkin Toad” keeps pests in their place. They are a huge help to the agriculture industry as they clear out hoards of insects that would otherwise destroy crops. Australia, Hawaii, and Florida to mention a few have imported them to control pest populations that were destroying sugar cane crops, hence the name Cane Toad. Toads are amphibians, so they can be found on dry land or in water.
The female is bigger than the male, but that seems to be the only difference between the two genders. The skin is reddish-brown to greenish-brown across the back, covered in many hard warts, and light gray, yellow, or white, on the underbelly. Reproduction in the Giant Toad is quite interesting in that either sex is capable of egg laying. Male toads have an ovary that will become active if something happens to damage the testicle. Toads breed all year long, and each female can produce two clutches of eggs each year. Females will lay anywhere from 8000 to 35,000 eggs at a time; though few survive to adulthood. Only 0.5% of these toadlets will live to reach maturity, which is one to two years of age. Amazingly, the eggs may hatch anywhere from one day to a week. The tadpoles have a tendency to gather together underwater, feeding and swimming, and this makes them vulnerable to predators. It takes about two months for them to develop into a small toad.
Although they may seem quite defenseless they do have a resource to make them an undesirable meal. They have large sacs, called parotid glands, over the shoulders that are filled with venom. This venom is released over the skin as a defense mechanism as it will often make a predator sick if the toad is eaten.
Giant Toads are able to expel the venom quite a distance, and it comes out as a thick, white substance that can cause paralysis, blindness, and even death, depending upon the species involved.
In modern times the toad’s toxins have been used in new ways; in Japan as a hair restorer and in China during cardiac surgery to lower the heart rates of patients.