Click below to hear…
…the sweet trill of amorous American toads (Anaxyrus americanus). Half a dozen males have been chorusing in the small pond at our house for the last week or so. For a warty ol’ amphibian, they sure make a nice sound. The recording has several individuals calling, some sweeter than others. Female toads, I’m told, prefer males that can produce low-pitched trills over many hours. I’m not that fussy. Any trill will do: the song of these toads is one of my favorite sounds. Winter is done. The acoustic world expands.
Last night, the male toads were joined by a couple of females. Amplexus ensued and now the pond is festooned with long strings of eggs.
I’m pretty sure the female in the photo above is the same one that has been here the last several years – she’s a rich chestnut color, quite unlike most local toads. She is also about twice as big as the males, a dream-mate because size correlates with egg number, and egg number correlates with numbers of toadlings, and toadlings are what natural selection cares about, and dreams are made by brains, and brains are made by natural selection. Happy slumbers.
The eggs are neatly lined up in jelly strands. Usually these strands are coiled, but they straighten out when pulled out of the water for a photo. The eggs hatch in about a week (depending on temperature) and the tadpoles graze on algae underwater for a couple of months before emerging onto land.
Love this, David– thanks so much for the audio! I moved away from my little farm about 3 years ago and almost never hear the trill of pond toads (which I always thought were frogs!) anymore.
:< I miss them!!!
Also, maybe you can answer a question I have had about these wonderful amphibians: what do they do when temps dip back down into the 20s and 30s? Climate change means our spring weather is frangible. What does that mean for our frogs and toads???
Glad to bring back some good memories! When the temp drops, they find warmer microclimates (e.g., in soil), but then they finally load up their bodies with natural antifreeze. Many frogs can freeze solid and revive in the spring unharmed. Pretty cool. Climate change will likely affect them through changes in water and through novel diseases spreading. Habitat alteration is also a huge factor for amphibians, independent of the climate.
Why are scientific names always changing!? There were enough to remember already. Sheesh, a naturalists job is never done. We’ve been hearing peepers everywhere, loving the signs of spring.
The change in genus name from Bufo is controversial. See the abstract of this grumpy paper: http://www.zo.utexas.edu/faculty/antisense/papers/Paulyetal2009.pdf (grumpy but probably correct in the long run). Glad to hear that you’re enjoying the peepers. I hope all goes well in the coming weeks with your little tadpole! A bit more complicated in humans…leaving a bunch of eggs in a pond is not quite our style.