Many species of toad are ‘explosive breeders’ - when the right conditions arise, the toads migrate in great numbers to bodies of water and engage in ‘scramble competitions’. The males race to climb onto the females’ backs - this is called amplexus - using the ‘nuptial pads’ on their fingers to give them an unbreakable grip. Toads are long-sighted, so they’re not very good at figuring out what it is they’re humping; they will simply climb onto any object, living or otherwise, that keeps still long enough, and attempt to mate with it.
Frequently, male toads end up mounting other males. The male underneath gives a harsh, high-pitched croak of protest, repeatedly, until the one on top gets off. Tellingly, this is the most commonly heard of all toad calls. The male underneath will also signal his discomfort through the use of ‘release vibrations,’ violently shaking his body. The larger the toad, the deeper the croak: toads compare voices to see who would win a fight - which settles the matter in advance.
Toads can see in colour, but mostly blues and greens.
There’s no definitive difference between frogs and toads. Toads are a subset of frogs. Generally speaking, toads crawl instead of hopping, have rough skin, are fat-bodied, and live drier lives than frogs. Most frogs have teeth; most toads don’t.
A toad will only eat something if it’s moving.
A more recent toad mystery took place in a Hamburg in 2005, when toads started exploding during the mating season. More than 1,000 toads, swollen to three times their usual size, crawled out of the water, making eerie screeching noises, and blew up, propelling their entrails up to a yard away. Initial suspicions of a virus or industrial pollution turned out to be wrong: super-smart crows were attacking the toads. The birds had worked out that, with a single strike through the toad’s chest, they could remove its liver. The toad’s defence mechanism did the rest: they puffed themselves up to intimidate their attacker, forcing their intestines out of the wound at high pressure in a kind of fatal hernia.
The clever men at Oxford,
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr Toad!
Toads make a wide variety of sounds. The song of the American Toad is said to resemble the opening movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. The Colorado River Toad’s call resembles a ferryboat whistle. Various other species sound like pigs, two carpenters banging in nails, hounds barking, birds, sheep, bulls, crickets, and squirrels. The distress call of the bullfrog is often mistaken for a human scream.
Twenty tons of toads are squashed on British roads each year. They've followed the same path to ancient breeding ponds for centuries, which now often means crossing busy roads. Purpose-built subterranean toad tunnels help, as do volunteers who man the routes and carry the toads across the road.
Toads shed their skin once about every three to five days.
This traditional English dish was originally steak encased in batter, but as steak became too expensive, it was replaced by sausages. The name was taken from a long-forgotten popular belief of the 19th century when hundreds of live toads were reported to have been discovered entombed in the middle of ancient rocks.
‘Toad-in-the-hole’ hysteria peaked in the 1830s, when William Buckland, the Oxford Professor of Geology, buried a number of toads in stone blocks to test their survival skills. Some lived for up to two years, but most died and public fascination waned.
A castrated male toad will turn into a sexually functional female.
The extinct gastric brooding frog used her stomach as a womb and gave birth by vomiting.
If God had wanted us to be concerned with the plight of toads, he would have made them cute and furry.
Toads cannot swallow without blinking.