Friday, May 11, 2012

Spawning Time at Toad Paradise

A male American Toad sings his heart out at the Toad Pond

Every spring, the American Toads converge at one particular pond at the Nature Preserve. The males arrive first and usually at night. The song of the male is a long pleasant trill, which he produces by inflating his throat sack. It’s this call that attracts the female toads to the pond. The males are noticeably smaller than the females, and this is quite obvious when you see the male perched on top of his mate. While in this position the female lays dual strands of eggs directly into the water.
The relatively small male (on top) is clasping tightly onto his mate

These mating rituals can become very raucous indeed, as unattached males try to pry apart already attached pairs. The male of the pair continues to hang on tight as sometimes 2 or 3 other males will work to dislodge him and take his place. A seething group of toads like this is sometimes called a “toad ball”. Being at the center of the ball can actually endanger the female’s life if she is held under water for too long.

Male toads pile onto the poor female as she tries to lay her eggs
Luckily, the toad's gelatinous egg strands are very flexible, because they often get tangled up in the legs of the amorous participants. For several days, these mating rumbles continue as more toads arrive on the scene and as the spawning area begin to fill with strings of eggs.
The tadpoles hatch quickly –sometimes in just a few days, if the water temperature is warm enough. The young tadpoles form a tight colony and stay in shallow water where they remain out of reach from large predatory fish. Many fish know better than to eat one of these tadpoles, since the toxins in their skin can be potent enough to kill.

American Toad tadpoles have very thin tails
The young tadpoles develop quickly, and they leave the water as soon as their new legs can carry them. Only about the size of a medium sized beetle, these brand new toads often still retain their tadpole tails when they first venture out onto the land. They immediately head for all corners of the Nature Preserve, where they will spend the majority of their lives as creatures of the land. They will hunt for snails, slugs and insects in the forests and fields. Those that survive to maturity will quite probably return to the very same pond to partake in their own generations’ breeding rumble.
A Northern Leopard Frog at the Toad Pond

The first Red Spotted Salamander seen in the woods this spring

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