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The American Toad

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The American Toad facts and lifestyle.

No, toads do not cause warts. In fact, the American Toad is a fascinating toad species and can be a very beneficial creature to have around the house and in the garden. Usually brown or gray in color (rarely green or red), these little critters can grow to be 3.5 inches in length. American Toads are excellent at pest control. They will eat mosquitoes, spiders, ladybugs, aphids, slugs, snails and other insects and invertebrates that are harmful to your garden and person. An American Toad will basically eat anything that will fit in its mouth, even other American Toads.

American Toads start their lives out hatching from an egg that was laid and fertilized in a small pond, river, or other source of water that stays around for 2 to 3 months. Once it hatches (about 12 days from being laid by mom and fertilized by dad), a tadpole emerges flicking its tail to get around its watery home, and feeds on any little thing that it can nibble on. It prefers underwater grasses, but will even munch on decaying plant matter--anything it can, to grow as fast as it can. After about 2-1/2 months, it will metamorphosize into a baby American Toad, about 3/8ths of an inch in length.

Once on land, its growth really takes off. About every 30 days, a baby American Toad will shed its old skin and inhale a bunch of air to stretch its new skin before it dries. This usually continues for its first year of life, and then the growth slows down and the toad sheds about 3 or 4 times a year. Unfortunately, the average lifespan of an American toad in the wild is only 1 year, but if they make it past that critical first year, their average goes up to 5 years in the wild.

These creatures are nocturnal, and therefore prefer to remain low-key in the daytime. They like to hang out under dense forest undergrowth, perhaps under rotting logs and fallen leaves and branches. When it is really cold out, the American Toad has an interesting behavior that it uses to keep itself going. It will use its back legs to burrow into the ground and undergo a short hibernation period until it warms up. Once it warms up, the toad then emerges to continue its lifestyle.

American Toads live simple lives, eating insects, trying to stay out of trouble, and of course trying to find that special someone to procreate with. The breeding season usually begins in March and lasts till about July. The male toads are identifiable by a black throat, and they also have spurs on the first and second two toes of their front legs. They use these spurs to grab onto the females back and hang on until they reach a water source and the eggs get laid and then fertilized externally. Only the males have a trill-like call; the females prefer to keep it quiet. Once a female hears a male's call that she likes, she seeks him out, and once they meet the male hops on the female's back, and the female heads off towards a water source. She will lay the eggs and the males will fertilize them and thus the cycle begins all over again.

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Posted on May 27, 2011

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