Nature Bulletin No. 158 June 5, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
The toad, distinguished by its wide heavy body, dry warty skin and a
large kidney-shaped gland on each shoulder, is a most interesting and
valuable animal. There are many superstitions about this gentle
harmless amphibian so loathed by many people. It is not evil or
venomous; it does not "rain down" from the sky; it cannot exist for
centuries sealed in the heart of a tree or solid rock; it does not cause
those two big glands and from the "warts", which are also glands,
a toad can secrete a milky fluid which is harmless to man but which
makes it distasteful to most animals. However, they are eaten by most
large snakes and by many hawks, owls, herons and bitterns. Because its
food is chiefly insects and their larvae, of which it consumes great
quantities, the toad is a valuable friend to the farmer and gardener even
though it also eats spiders and earthworms.
In spring, toads emerge from the ground, where they hibernate over the
winter, and travel to ponds, marshes and the quiet backwaters of
streams. There the males sing their love songs, sitting half submerged
with their throats swelled-out like huge bubbles. The song of the
common American toad is a high-pitched musical trill; that of its
relative, Fowler's toad, is a weird nasal squawk.
There in the water they mate and lay their eggs -- long strings of
transparent jelly enclosing the little black eggs closely spaced in single
file. A string may be from 20 to 72 feet long and a single female may
lay from 2,000 to 20,000 eggs. In a few days they develop into tiny
tadpoles. These grow and, like frog tadpoles but black in color, each
gradually absorbs its gills and tail, and develop lungs, legs and feet.
Late in summer, thousands of them come out on land, where they spend
the rest of their lives except at mating season.
toads were supposed to sit on them, poisonous mushrooms
were called "toadstools".
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Update: June 2012