American Toad - Anaxyrus americanus

American Toad

*The colored areas of the map above represent parishes with currently known records for the given species (Source: Jeff Boundy, LA Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries). By no means does it represent the full range of the species in the state, nor does it necessarily mean that a species can be found throughout the parish with the record. This is provided as a guide to where you might be able to find these species in the state and to aid in identification. A descriptive explanation of the range of each species can be found in the text below.

Other Common Names:  

Subspecies:  The Dwarf American Toad, Anaxyrus americanus charlesmithi, occurs within the western Florida Parishes and extreme northern Louisiana.

Description:  American Toads are relatively large warty toads, with the average adult between 2- 3.5 inches long, with females attaining even larger sizes. They are highly variable in ground coloration, ranging from dull gray or brown, to olive, or reddish. Many individuals have yellowish or dark brown to black spots or blotches on the dorsum, with each spot or blotch usually containing only one or two warts. Large spiny warts are present on the dorsal surface of each tibia. A light, and usually thin mid-dorsal line is sometimes present on individuals. The parotoid glands are prominent and often kidney-shaped, and connected to the transverse cranial crests by short spurs. The belly is white to cream in color, usually with dark spots and blotches. During the breeding season males can be differentiated from females by the presence of a dark throat, due to singing for females, and horny tubercles on the inside of their first and second fingers used in grasping receptive females during breeding.

American Toad tadpoles are round or oval in shape, with dorsally set eyes. They are small and dark brown to black in coloration, with scattered copper to gold flecks or spots on the belly and tail muscle. The tail fin is translucent, and the tail fin is bi-colored, with the lower part of the tail muscle distinctly lighter in color than the top part. Tadpoles usually reach a total length of just over 1 inch before metamorphosis. Newly metamorphosed toadlets are about ½ inch long.

Similar Species:  In Louisiana, the American Toad may be differentiated from the Southern Toad by the absence of enlarged knobs on the cranial ridges characteristic of that species. American Toads do not have the lateral light and dark prominent stripes present in Gulf Coast Toads. American Toads are most easily confused with Fowler’s Toads where they are sympatric in Louisiana. However, Fowler’s Toads have less conspicuous cranial crests and parotoid glands. The parotoid glands in Fowler’s Toads are usually reported as set flush against the crests and not connected by a spur as in the American Toad. However, Dundee and Rossman (1989) as well as myself have observed many Louisiana individuals prescribed to Fowler’s Toad that had parotoid glands connected to the cranial crests by a spur as in American Toads. Fowler’s Toads usually have 3 or more warts per dorsal spot, whereas American Toads usually have 2 or fewer. Fowler’s Toads also lack the enlarged warts on the dorsal surface of each tibia that American Toads possess. Also, the belly of Fowler’s Toads is usually not marked with dark spots and blotches as in the American Toad.

Species Range:  The American Toad is a widespread species, occurring throughout much of the eastern United States, but noticeably absent throughout the Gulf Coast region and north through the coastal Carolinas.

Louisiana Range:  The populations of the Dwarf American Toad in the western Florida Parishes represent the southernmost populations of the entire species. The Dwarf American Toad is also known from extreme northern Louisiana.

Habitat:  American Toads in Louisiana occur in upland hardwoods and shortleaf pine-oak-hickory forests. In these general areas, the American Toad can use nearly any situation, from more natural wooded areas, to pine plantations and open fields, as long as there is a suitable breeding location nearby.

Natural History:  American Toads, like most toads, are active primarily at night, especially on relatively warm, rainy or humid nights. During the day, they stay hidden by burrowing into loamy soils, or taking refuge in subterranean holes or underneath logs and other cover. Juvenile and adult American Toads are indiscriminate feeders, taking any moving prey that it can fit into its mouth. Tadpoles feed upon algae and other organic matter. Despite the milky white toxic secretions that irritate the moist membranes of many animals, some birds, snakes, and mammals are able to tolerate these chemicals and readily prey upon juvenile and adult toads. Tadpoles are also afforded some protection, especially from aquatic predators, by the incorporation of toxins into the eggs of females. However, eggs and tadpoles are still depredated by aquatic insects, crustaceans, and birds.

Among Louisiana toads, American Toads are usually the earliest to breed, usually beginning in January or February. American Toads can use a variety of breeding locations from roadside ditches, to streams and farm ponds. After the female has selected a male, the male grasps her behind her forelimbs and will fertilize the eggs as they are deposited in the water. Eggs are laid in long double strands and are usually deposited on the shallow water bottom. The total complement of a single female is reported to be between 2,000 and 20,000 eggs. The eggs hatch in 3-12 days and the tadpoles metamorphose in about 2 months. Reproductive maturity may take 2-4 years for Louisiana populations. Adults can presumably live considerably longer.

Call:  The advertisement call of the male American Toad is a long, high-pitched, musical trill lasting up to 30 seconds. Many males will come together in a breeding chorus and call while floating in water or sitting at the water’s edge.

Best Time and Place to Observe:  Listen for their calls in the reported range within Louisiana in late winter or early spring just after dusk. To maximize detection, listen for them after a significant warm late afternoon rain near an appropriate breeding location.

Global Conservation Status:  American Toads have a wide distribution in eastern North America, a presumed large population, and tolerate a broad range of habitats, and thus, are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Their NatureServe Global Conservation Status Rank is G5 (Secure).

Federal Conservation Status:  None

Louisiana Conservation Status:  American Toads, though limited in distribution in the state, do not have any special status in Louisiana.

Author's Remarks:  In 2014, I found my first American Toads in Louisiana near Tunica Hills WMA. And in 2017 and 2018 I found several juveniles on an adjacent property to the WMA. Overall though, I have not spent much time where they have been found in the state.

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