Friday, April 12, 2013

An orgy of toads

I don't mean for the title of the post to sound x-rated, but there's just no better way to describe a pool full of lusty American Toads in full mating fervor. Last night was warm, wet, and rainy, so I decided to head out to some of my favorite wetlands in Logan County to see what was hopping. I stopped along the way to meet up with Bellefontainite Cheryl Erwin, and much appreciated her company. Making decent images in pitch-black rainy conditions is challenging, to say the least, and having someone along to manipulate lights and whatnot is hugely helpful.
 
The salamanders had apparently mostly made their runs to the breeding ponds. We saw a few "unisexual" hybrids (more on those, HERE), and one road-killed Spotted Salamander. Although the sallies may have done their thing, Shift II, the frogs and toads, were in full swing. Spring Peepers peeped everywhere, and the raspy grates of Western Chorus Frogs were plentiful. The odd underwater snores of Northern Leopard Frogs were heard here and there, and while not much in tune yet, we saw several Green Frogs and Bullfrogs.
 
But it was the warty old toads that stole the show.
 
A male American Toad, Bufo americanus, in full song. Normally shy and recalcitrant, toads come out of their shell when it's time to woo the girls. We happened along a shallow roadside wetland that was, literally, hopping with toads. A pool full of dozens of toads caught up in the lust of spring is a spectacle nearly beyond belief. Males, such as the one above, rise from the water and deliver their long semi-melodic trills while others dash madly about like synchronized swimmers on a mushroom trip. Peepers and chorus frogs add to the din, and the amphibious soundscape is quite deafening.

Quite the charmers, these stud toads. Note his chalky-blue eyeliner, which (I believe) fades after the breeding season. If a female, enchanted by the male's aria, approaches, watch out! The hormone-saturated toad will often shoot out after her, and grab the female in quite the Cro-Magnon style. Sometimes a tussle ensues, and she breaks away, possibly to look for a more mannerly toad. Finding other suitors is no problem - there are trilling toads everywhere.

If a match is made, this is the result - amplexus. Amplexus is herpetological-speak for the act of mating, and once paired the happy couple can remain in position for a long time. The male (he's the one on top and if you didn't know that I feel sorry for you) is noticeably smaller than his mate.

The ultimate result of a toad mating frenzy are these long strands of helically twisted toad eggs. The blackish embryonic toadlets are visible through the opaque matrix that forms the eggs, and soon the pond will be awash with toad tadpoles. Those that are lucky enough to run the gauntlet of predators that lurk in such places will eventually rise from the water, and with luck live a good long life.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was a child, we lived along a river, and there were so many tadpoles and frogs it was heavenly at night. A couple of days ago, when we visited a shopping center that has replaced a creek bed feeder to the river, I heard one little peeper, chirping away. I was so delighted to hear it!

Thank you for the wonderful photos!

Lella